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04/11/09 4:09 AM ET
Ichiro remains hot in rehab stint
All-Star outfielder collects five hits; could return Wednesday
By Jim Street / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had another busy offensive day in Peoria, Ariz., on Friday afternoon, going 5-for-10 in a five-inning Minor League intrasquad game, and running the bases for the first time. His workload could increase a little more on Saturday. "We're going to see how he feels in the morning," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said prior to Seattle's game against Oakland, "and he might play some outfield tomorrow. We expect him to be on a plane on Sunday going to Seattle and he would join the team for Monday's workout." The Mariners are scheduled to work out at Safeco Field on Monday afternoon in preparation for Tuesday afternoon's home opener against the Angels. Ichiro won't play in that game, but could be activated for Wednesday night's game. The eight games the perennial All-Star and Gold Glove winner will miss are more than he has in any of his eight seasons with the Mariners. His streak of never being on the disabled list ended on April 3 when he went on the DL because of a bleeding ulcer, which caused severe fatigue. When Ichiro returns, he'll return to right field and to the top of the batting order. Endy Chavez, who never batted in the leadoff spot at all last season, has filled the position extremely well. Through five games, he is batting .409 (9-for-22), with four RBIs and three runs scored. "Coming into Spring Training, we knew he could do a lot of things," Wakamatsu said. "We're happy to have him. He is an igniter on this club and I want to keep him in [the lineup] as much as possible." Chavez started three of the four games played against the Twins in left field and one in right field. But when Ichiro comes back, playing time in right field would become limited. "We will lose some of our flexibility when Ichiro comes back, but it's a good 'problem' to have," Wakamatsu said. "It's important for everyone to play and we have to find ways to get everyone in there." Wakamatsu definitely likes what Chavez adds to the offense, primarily speed, but he'll bat leadoff only in the games Ichiro doesn't play. When both were in the same lineup during Cactus League games, Chavez usually batted ninth. "We'll work things out as we go forward," Wakamatsu said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.