The 44-year-old Ichiro is 0-7 for the spring with four strikeouts and also has one walk in eight plate appearances.
PEORIA, Ariz. — After Ichiro saw his first action in a week on Wednesday night while dealing with calf tightness, Mariners manager Scott Servais expressed hope that the veteran outfielder would be in the lineup again Thursday and on his way to getting back to regular duty.
But that plan has been altered for now with Ichiro not in the lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Rangers.
Not that it sounds like a major roadbump — Servais said Ichiro will get a day or two more of work in minor league games as he tries to get back both his health and his timing.
“He will not play tonight,’’ Servais said. “I think he is less than 100 percent with that leg. He is trying to find the balance between getting the at-bats to help his timing at the plate versus getting in the field, so may not see him in an A (Major League) game for a couple of days yet. Getting the quality of at-bats is what he is looking for at the minor league games so he will probably head that way tomorrow. It’s more about his timing. We all know Ichiro can play the outfield. But it’s more about timing, to get him to 100 percent.’’
Both health and timing seemed lagging Wednesday night as Ichiro struck out swinging in both of his at-bats and also misplayed a ball in left field and then bobbled it after retrieving it at the wall after it went over his head. Ichiro is 0-7 for the spring with four strikeouts and also has one walk in eight plate appearances.
And the slight change in plan also indicates that anyone hoping to see vintage Ichiro may need to further temper expectations.
Ichiro, now 44, was signed in the wake of some early injuries to the Mariners outfield, specifically Ben Gamel’s oblique strain. There is still no timetable for Gamel’s return, though Servais said Thursday he is “ahead of schedule.”
The Mariners also were still judging the progress of Guillermo Heredia’s recovery from off-season shoulder surgery and waiting to see how Mitch Haniger would come back from a hand issue when Ichiro was signed on March 5.
But Heredia hasn’t had any setbacks with his shoulder, though he is still shaking off some rust, hitting .200, and Servais reiterated on Thursday that a healthy Heredia will get his share of action in left field with Ichiro.
“Ichiro is not going to play every day,’’ Servais said. “Heredia is going to get time. So it’s a good fit.’’
Servais said Heredia has shown enough that there is no longer a concern that he won’t be ready for the start of the regular season.
“There was some question whether he would be ready to break for us,’’ Servais said. “I still think there are some things timing-wise at the plate. He has had some better games. I think his at-bats have been pretty good for the most part. Hasn’t gotten a lot of results yet (6-30, three doubles, no home runs) but he is really good defensively… so I’m happy where he is at.’’
Haniger, meanwhile, is also going to spend a few more days in minor league games to get some more at-bats after going 0-2 with a walk on Wednesday night dropping is spring average to .148 (4-27, one home run).
“He hasn’t had all the at-bats some of the other guys have had,’’ Servais said. “Health-wise there are no issues at all. It’s just more seeing pitches and seeing breaking balls, trying to make some adjustments and try some things. Guys are a lot more willing to do that in minor league games. He just wanted the volume of at-bats.’’
Servais said he thinks that’s all Haniger needs is some more work and isn’t concerned by his spring numbers.
“He just wants to put himself in a position where he feels comfortable and confident when the season starts,’’ Servais said. “He’s just chasing balls out of the zone right now more than anything. It’s hard to hit when you are not hitting strikes so getting command of the strike zone is his biggest thing.’’
That might sound like a lot still in flux with the Mariners now just a week away from Opening Day on March 29 against Cleveland.
But some pieces are finally settling into place again with Robinson Cano back in the lineup at second base for Thursday’s game after missing 10 days with a hamstring issue (he DH’d on Thursday), which had Nelson Cruz back in his usual designated hitter spot for the first time in nine days after suffering a quad strain.
Servais also expects shortstop Jean Segura back in the next few days from a sprained thumb, with the expectation that he will be in the lineup Saturday night.