09/15/08 8:09 PM ET
Raul's resilience may get him to 200 hits
If he remains healthy, veteran to play in 162 games this year
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
Ibanez has been racking up impressive numbers this year, especially since the All-Star break. But manager Jim Riggleman said the number he wants most for Ibanez is 162. At 36, Ibanez has a chance for his second go-the-distance season. He also played in 162 games for the Mariners in 2005.
"It's a testament to the shape he's in and how hard he works," Riggleman said. "When people see that this guy played in 162 games at 36 years old, I think it will really leave an impression."
Riggleman said Ibanez might be a designated hitter for a game or two, but mainly will continue to take his place in left field over the final two weeks of the regular season. A full allotment of at-bats over the final 14 games means Ibanez has a legitimate crack at reaching the 200-hit plateau. He went into Monday's game against the Royals with 181 hits, which tied his career-high established in 2006.
Ever the team player, Ibanez doesn't dwell on individual benchmarks. Though his torrid pace since the All-Star break has produced a league-leading 80 hits over that time span and given him a legitimate shot at the 200-hit milestone, Ibanez focuses only on being a productive player in the lineup.
"The only thing I really focus on is how many times I contribute to our team scoring runs," Ibanez said. "You just try to stay with the preparation, the approach and the attitude that you bring to the ballpark every day. I always feel like the process is more important than the results."
Ibanez credits hitting coach Jose Castro with being "instrumental" in his hitting surge over the second half of the season. Ibanez went into Monday's game against his former team having hit .398 with a .466 on-base percentage since Aug. 9.
"It's all about his tremendous preparation and work habits," Riggleman said of Ibanez. "His daily preparation is right there with Ichiro [Suzuki]. Those two guys prepare for each season, prepare for each game, prepare for each at-bat."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.