The veteran outfielder appears fine but will miss another spring training game on Saturday.
With Opening Day now just five days away, the Mariners today are rolling out what the team has envisioned could well be the lineup on Thursday against the Indians, with one notable exception — Guillermo Heredia playing left field instead of Ichiro.
Ichiro won’t play in Saturday’s 6:40 p.m. game against the Cubs, out of the lineup for a third straight day, this time after being hit in the head with a pitch in a minor league game Friday. Ichiro had gotten the previous two days to work on minor league fields to get his calf healthy and also get additional at-bats to get his timing down.
Manager Scott Servais said Ichiro passed concussion tests, saying “I think he’s fine’’ but decided to give him one more day off to make sure.
Due mostly to the sore calf, Ichiro has gotten just seven at-bats this spring, which is beginning to make it something of a question if he will be ready for opening day. The Mariners have just two more games after Saturday before heading to Seattle, though Ichiro could also get at-bats in minor league games.
“No decisions have been made yet,’’ Servais said Saturday. “But I’m hopeful that he will be (ready). Hopeful that he’ll get out on the field today, takes BP and runs around a little bit and see how he’s feeling.’’
The 44-year-old was signed three weeks ago to add depth to an injury-ravaged outfield but has instead battled injuries and has yet to get a hit, going 0-7 with four strikeouts.
But if Ichiro is not ready the team has options as Heredia has had no setbacks from shoulder surgery and Servais said utility player Andrew Romine could also play the outfield, if needed, while Seattle could also keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who has three homers in the last four days.
Aside from Ichiro, the rest of the team’s regulars are in the lineup, including shortstop Jean Segura, who has been out all week with a sprained thumb, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
Felix Hernandez is the pitcher and Servais said if he goes four innings and 65 pitches or so that the team may declare him as ready to be the starter on Opening Day.
It will be just Hernandez’s third start of the spring after being hit in the arm by a line drive in his first start. Hernandez has not missed an Opening Day start since 2008.
*** The Mariners optioned reliever Chasen Bradford to Tacoma and returned first baseman Mike Ford to the Yankees. Ford was a Rule 5 selection and had to be offered back to the Yankees if he was not going to be kept on the 25-man roster. Ford was then not claimed on waivers and returned to the Yankees. Daniel Vogelbach appears set to make the roster as a backup first baseman.
*** Those moves leave the Mariners with 34 players in their big league camp, 28 on the 40-man roster. But that number does not include pitcher Wade LeBlanc, who will be officially signed soon. Seattle has three spots open on the 40-man with Ford gone. LeBlanc will have to be added. The Mariners will also have another open spot when they are allowed to place reliever David Phelps on the 60-day disabled list.
*** Servais said pitcher Erasmo Ramirez showed no problems from his 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday and will now begin ramping up a normal routine with the hope of potentially being ready by mid-April.