SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki, slugger?
OK, that might never happen, but as the 2012 season heads into its third week, the Mariners' much-publicized lineup switch with their former leadoff man has started to yield some desired results. Ichiro leads a slow-starting offensive club with nine RBIs in 15 games, which means he's on pace to drive in 97 runs this year. That would eclipse his previous single-season Major League high by 28.
It also means the magical number of 100 is within reach, and according to his manager and teammates, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see a man formerly known as a singles hitter drive in triple digits.
"He could probably do anything," outfielder Michael Saunders said. "The sheer bat control is amazing, but it doesn't matter where you put him in the lineup. He picks and chooses times appropriately -- when to really turn on one and let one loose. Even when he swings and misses, he's looking to drive the ball at the right opportunity.
"He's definitely got the potential to drive in 100 runs. It's up to us to get on base for him."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he expected it to take some time for Ichiro to get comfortable in his new role as a run producer, and that things seem to be progressing just fine.
"It looks to me like he's getting more and more comfortable with it, and as our young players continue to develop and be more consistent, it's going to help him and what he's doing," Wedge said. "And it's going to help them."
Iwakuma's debut with Mariners worth the wait
SEATTLE -- Long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma got a bit of national notoriety Friday night, when he became the last man on a 25-man roster who wasn't optioned or injured to appear in a Major League game this year. On Saturday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge explained the logic behind holding him out until the season's 15th game.
"You wonder why you save an Iwakuma and he doesn't pitch for a while, and it's because we've been in every game," Wedge said. "The way this sport is, you try to get him in there for an inning, and chances are, the next day your starter's going to get blown up when you need him and you end up running through everybody else that you don't want to pitch.
"So that's why you hang on to him. I wanted to go to [Erasmo] Ramirez first, because I wanted to give Iwakuma a fresh inning, a fresh start his first time out. That's what we did, and it worked out OK."
Iwakuma pitched four innings and gave up one run on one hit, and Ramirez went 3 2/3 innings in relief of starter Hector Noesi, pitching scoreless ball and only giving up one hit to lower his season ERA to 3.12.
"They really picked us up," Wedge said.
Mariners to get Wells work against lefties
SEATTLE -- Look for outfielder Casper Wells to be back in the lineup Sunday, when the Mariners face White Sox left-hander John Danks, and look for him to play when the team faces other lefties in the near future, too.
Despite the fact that Wells only had 10 at-bats in five games entering Saturday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge has liked what he has seen from the right-handed hitter, who's batting .300 with two doubles and a walk. Wells went 2-for-3 with a double and walk in Friday night's loss to Chicago.
"He had a tough spring, and to see him ... drive the ball to right field and drive the ball to left-center field like he did [Friday], he's a guy that we have in there against left-handers and it's good to see," Wedge said.
The Mariners signed outfielder Chris Pettit to a Minor League contract on Saturday. Pettit, who appeared in seven Major League games with the Angels in 2009 and one game with the Angels last year, was assigned to Double-A Jackson and was available for Saturday night's game at Huntsville. Outfielder Mario Yepez was transferred to Class A Clinton to make room on the Double-A roster for Pettit and Clinton infielder Daniel Paolini was placed on the 7-day disabled list.
Reliever George Sherrill, who has been on the disabled list since April 13 (retroactive to April 10) with a strained flexor tendon bundle in his left elbow, said Saturday he still hasn't received he results of the MRI that was taken on his arm and that it "doesn't feel any better."
The vaunted "Big Three" on the Mariners' Double-A Jackson team -- top prospect pitchers Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton -- are living up to their billing so far this year with a combined pitching line over eight starts of 42 innings, nine earned runs (1.93 ERA), 21 hits, 19 walks, no homers and 57 strikeouts.