06/11/11 12:23 AM ET
Ichiro sits for first time in 256 games
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Ichiro, 37, has hit just 13-for-87 since May 19, and his batting average has tumbled to .252, the lowest it's ever been at this point in the season during his 11 years in the Major Leagues.
Wedge said it would be a one-day break, simply to give the 10-time All-Star a chance to regroup. Rookie Carlos Peguero started in his place in right field and hit the game-winning home run in a 3-2 victory over the Tigers, while Chone Figgins moved into the leadoff role and went 2-for-4.
"Every challenge is big and every accomplishment I overcame is big," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki after sitting out his first game since Aug. 31, 2009. "This is another one. But I feel this time I'm being tested. This is something I need to overcome. And not just as a baseball player.
"It's not just coming up with results," he said. "It's about overcoming this as a human being. That's what I feel I need to do right now, to overcome that line as a human being, to become bigger and better."
Wedge hopes the day off revitalizes the veteran outfielder, who has hit .189 over the past five weeks after starting the season with a typical .328 April average.
"He's been playing baseball for a long time and he does a great job," Wedge said. "He's in great shape. He's mentally tough, he's physically tough. He has so many things that are reasons why he's been so successful. But ultimately, he's a human being and everybody needs a break now and then."
Wedge has previously sat down Figgins and designated hitter Jack Cust when they were struggling, but said he waited longer to do the same with the Mariners biggest star.
"If you look at what he's accomplished the last 10 years, the consistency he's had in regard to playing, he's earned the benefit of the doubt," Wedge said. "He's earned the right to go out there and play a little bit longer [than] maybe some of the other guys. That's something I have a great deal of respect for. But ultimately, I'm the manager and I've got to do what I feel is best for him and the ball club. I feel like this is the right thing."
Ichiro said he learned something about Wedge during this process. After being told Thursday night that he'd have Friday off, he came to the park prepared to play some role in the game regardless and was warming up in the cages from the third inning on.
"When you look back, we've had managers who would say you're having the day off," Ichiro said. "But at the end of the day, you will be playing in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. Now I know how he truly feels and when he gives me a day off, I can sit on the bench all game long."
Ichiro sounded as if he appreciated that approach.
"When you talk about our skipper, he's very stable. His feelings will never change," Ichiro said. "More than my will, I think I felt his will stronger than ever. Because in today's situation, it was a tight ballgame, I thought I'd be in there. But saying I would have the day off, he completely gave me the day off."
Ichiro has played in 1,651 of the 1,683 possible games in his Mariners career, starting 1,635 of those. His 255 consecutive games streak is third longest in Mariners history and was the second-longest active streak in the Major Leagues behind the Dodgers' Matt Kemp (268).
Kemp did not start Friday night because of tightness in his left hamstring, but hit a pinch-hit home run for the Dodgers in a 6-5 loss to the Rockies.
The last time Ichiro didn't start was Aug. 31, 2009, against the Angels, when he was having hamstring problems of his own.
Ichiro has reached 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons in Seattle, but currently is on pace for just 170 this year with 66 hits through 63 games.
Wedge went with two rookies in the outfield, with Greg Halman starting in left field and Peguero in right. Halman is 7-for-15 (.467) since being promoted from Triple-A last week, while Peguero is batting .237 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 80 at-bats.
Ichiro's on-base percentage of .306 is well below his career average of .376 and he's yet to hit a home run, the longest streak without a long ball to open a season since he came to the U.S. in 2001.
Figgins, hitting just .193 even after his 2-for-4 day, said he's just eager to be starting anywhere and isn't putting any great stock in his day back at the top of the lineup, where he played for the Angels before signing with Seattle last year.
"It's not that big of a deal. Ichi is still the leadoff hitter," Figgins said. "He just gets a once-in-a-three-year day off, which he probably could use. He's been successful for all these years. But for me, I'm just happy to be back in the lineup."
But Wedge indicated that move could help Figgins and declined to speculate if Figgins' leadoff role would be limited to just the one game.
"We'll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow," said Wedge.