Ichiro Suzuki is still hitting. No one has been able to stop that since he entered Major League Baseball eight years ago.
But the Seattle Mariners took steps on Friday to protect their franchise cornerstone on the bases.
Suzuki had five hits in 10 at-bats in his second controlled game at Seattle’s minor league complex, part of his recovery from a bleeding stomach ulcer that has him on the disabled list for the first time in his MLB career. The perennial All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder was removed for a pinch-runner each time he reached base.
He then declared he was ready to play for real, though his stint on the 15-day DL stint runs until Wednesday.
“The organization told me not to run,” Suzuki said through his interpreter, Ken Barron. “It probably has more to do with expediting my recovery. I have no problem running — but that’s what they wanted me to do.”
The Mariners thought better of allowing Suzuki to run a day after he was thrown out at the plate on the back end of a double steal in his first rehab game. He chose not to slide on the play, believing the Mariners would not want him to.
Suzuki had a single, two doubles and two triples on Friday, after going 7-for-10 on Thursday while also as a designated hitter. He remains on track to return for Seattle’s second home game of the season on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Suzuki said he would play one more game yesterday against the minor league pitchers in the Mariners’ extended spring training program. He then plans to return to Seattle instead of meeting the Mariners in Oakland to work out this weekend.
He had no difficulty running on his hits, reaching third standing on one triple.
“In my opinion, the time for seeing what happens is over,” Suzuki said. “I feel great.”
Last season, the 35-year-old Japanese star tied Boston’s Dustin Pedroia for the MLB lead with 213 hits and set the modern record with his eighth consecutive 200-hit season. He said he feels “pretty much normal” after complaining of severe fatigue about a week ago.
Suzuki hit .273 to lead Japan to the World Classic title. He had the game-winning two-out, two-run single in a 5-3, 10-inning victory over South Korea in the final on March 24.
The Mariners said the ulcer had stopped bleeding by the time they placed him on the DL on April 3, retroactive to March 31.
An ulcer is a relatively rare condition for an athlete.
“I heard it was caused by bacteria. Who knows the reason why my stomach was so weak that the bacteria had a chance to grow?” he said. “What I heard is that it possibly was stress-related — and [that] it possibly wasn’t.”
Suzuki curtailed his training for a few days after the diagnosis, per doctors’ orders, but said he has not had to modify his food consumption at all.
“My diet has been exactly the same the whole time,” he said.
Suzuki will miss at least 10 games this season after missing only 16 in his eight Seattle seasons, when he never played fewer than 157 games. Until this week, he had missed only three games in the previous five years.