Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Ichiro Suzuki just wants to light up team's scoreboard

AP , PEORIA, ARIZONAAP, TUCSON, ARIZONAAND LAKELAND, FLORIDA

Ever the perfectionist, Ichiro Suzuki hopes to cut down on his miscues -- he says he even made them while setting the US Major League Baseball single-season hit record with 262 last year.

"I feel like I'm a player who makes a lot of mistakes," Suzuki said through a translator on Tuesday. "I make a lot of mistakes and those turn into outs because I made a mistake.

"Last year I made less mistakes than maybe the years past," he added. "I want to go out and make less mistakes at the plate. When I do that, I'll hit for a higher average and get more hits."

Suzuki led MLB with a .372 average last season -- his best in four years with the Seattle Mariners -- when he became the third player in US history to have 700 at-bats in a season with 704.

The four-time MLB All-Star is hitting .339 with the Mariners after hitting .353 in nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan -- including .387 in 2000. No MLB hitter has hit .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Tony Gwynn came the closest when he hit .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Suzuki recalls he hit more than .500 in high school. He won't say he's a candidate to hit .400, but he won't say he isn't, either.

"I don't know if I'll ever do it, but I want to be a player that the people can say he has a chance," he said. "I want to be a player that the fans think that I can do it."

In the season after erasing George Sisler's record of 257 hits set in 1920, the 1.75m, 78kg hitting machine from Kobe, Japan, will lead off for an improved Seattle offense.

During the offseason, the Mariners spent US$114 million to add free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Beltre, who signed a US$64 million, five-year contract, and Sexson, who is getting US$50 million for five seasons, will make Suzuki a more productive player, the Mariners believe.

Despite having 262 hits in 161 games, Suzuki scored 101 runs, a career low. He scored 127, 111 and 111 runs, respectively, in his first three seasons as the team's leadoff hitter.

Suzuki had Randy Winn, Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud and Raul Ibanez hitting behind him last year. In 2005, the lineup should include rookie center fielder Jeremy Reed batting second followed by Beltre, Sexson, Boone and Ibanez.

"My job is to score runs and if I'm scoring runs it's a good thing," he said. "I think we're going to score more runs and I hope this year I can get to that 100 mark a lot faster."

The Mariners have a new manager, Mike Hargrove, and a new hitting coach, Don Baylor, this season. Hargrove doesn't plan to do anything to change Suzuki as a hitter.

"I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I know not to mess with some things," Hargrove said after the Mariners held their first full-squad workout of spring training. "Ichiro is pretty much the complete package."

Tsao Chin-hui, a 23-year-old right-hander from Taiwan, hopes he will be the answer as the Colorado Rockies search for a relief pitcher to be their closer.

Tsao is a hard thrower who also has a sharp breaking ball and solid changeup. His history of injuries helped persuade the Rockies to move him to the bullpen at the end of last season. Tsao had reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow in 2001 and last year suffered through shoulder soreness and blister problems.

He made 10 late-season appearances out of the bullpen, recording his first career save in the final week. He also pitched out of the bullpen for Taiwan at the Athens Olympics.

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