Wedge 'not sure' if Ichiro will still lead off
Manager knows star will do what's best for Mariners
DALLAS -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he's had two conversations with Ichiro Suzuki this offseason, including one just the other day to discuss his role next season.
Wedge indicated on Tuesday in his meeting with the media at the Winter Meetings that Ichiro's role could indeed be changing after 11 seasons almost exclusively as the club's leadoff hitter.
"I'm still not sure where I'm going to hit him in the order, and I want him to understand that," Wedge said. "Because ultimately I'm going to do what is best for our club. I'm going to put out the best nine in the order I see fit to score as many runs as we can.
"If I feel like that is him leading off, then that's what we're going to do. If I feel like that's him hitting in the three-hole, then that's what I'm going to do. If it's him hitting somewhere else, then that's what I'm going to do."
Wedge said that based on a conversation he had with Ichiro last year, the 38-year-old will be open to any change.
"He told me last year in the middle of the season that he wants to do whatever is best for the ballclub and he wants me to do whatever I feel is best for the ballclub," Wedge said. "I take him at his word, and that's what I'm going to do. He's been tremendous -- he's been communicative with me, and I appreciate that. We're looking to build a winner and championship club, here and that's my entire focus."
Ichiro hit .272 last season and finished with 182 hits, marking the first time in 11 Major League seasons that he didn't bat .300, reach 200 hits or earn either an All-Star berth or an American League Gold Glove Award.
"Last year was tough because it wasn't a prototypical year for him," Wedge said. "I haven't been around him in a prototypical year. I'm hoping to be around him this year in a prototypical year.
"He's a guy that can be aggressive at times, and he can be passive at times. He has a mindset and goes up there and sticks to it. He's a tough one to assess because it's such a unique style. It's very rare, and that's why he's such a special player. He's a future Hall of Famer, there's no doubt in my mind.
"But right now, he's here to help us win ballgames, as the other 24 are, and that's what we're going to move forward with."
Mariners focused on Gutierrez's progress
DALLAS -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the club is bringing outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, along with several other players, to Seattle in early January to make sure they're healthy and in top shape during offseason workouts. Wedge said reports are that Gutierrez is feeling well and has gained positive weight as he comes back from last year's stomach issue and late-season oblique pull.
"I want to make sure that the reports that were good are really good, and not the good that I heard last winter, to be completely honest with you," Wedge said. "So I pressed that issue. He's an important guy for us. This is a guy that's kind of flying under the radar for certain people, but not for me.
"I had him in Cleveland. I know what he can do when he's good. I'm talking offensively, I'm talking about getting on base, stealing bases -- I'm talking about being a guy that's a run producer.
"There would be nothing happier for me than if I could plug him up there in that two-hole. I would love for him to really come in and fight for that and do that, because I think he's capable of doing some things up there."
Wedge is looking at Mike Carp more as a left fielder than designated-hitter candidate at the moment. The manager wants to see Chone Figgins adopt more of a utility role than the everyday third-base job. And he'd like to see some veteran presence added over the offseason, both in the infield and the pitching staff. ... The only rotation pieces "set in stone" at this point for Wedge are Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas. He said rookie Blake Beavan probably has "a leg up" on the rest of the field due to his experience last year, but he'll wait and see how things shake out with other young prospects and possible veteran additions.