Watching the Felix Hernandez-Jamie Moyer matchup for the ages in Peoria, wondering how long into the season it’ll be before there’s a large enough sample size to fairly judge the Seattle Mariners biggest experiment – Chone Figgins leading off and Ichiro Suzuki batting third.
The thought occurred after watching Figgins try to bunt opening the game against Moyer and popping out to the catcher. A few moments later, after Brendon Ryan doubled, Ichiro came up and popped out to shallow center field.
Those at-bats left Figgins batting .182 this spring, Ichiro at .371. Figgins has 33 at-bats, Ichiro 35. Figgins has drawn seven walks, struck out 10 times. Ichiro has drawn four walks, struck out three times.
Of the two, Ichiro has looked the most like himself, though that’s rarely been a classic No. 3 hitter. Several of his hits have been of the infield variety, a handful of others soft line drive singles and two have been home runs.
As for Figgins, the fan pool of jurors may be considerably less patient. Opening the third season of his four-year contract, Figgins has batted .236 as a Mariner – .188 in 81 games last season, when he was booed each time he was thought about, let alone mentioned.
There’s another consideration: Seattle has options. Dustin Ackley could lead off. Kyle Seager could play third base. Munenori Kawasaki can play anywhere in the infield, Casper Wells anywhere in the outfield.
It’s not as if the team needs Figgins so much as, since it will pay him $18 million in the next two years, it would like to get something for the money. If his spring carries over through April, that will be a tougher sale on the field – and an impossible one in the stands.
Ichiro has earned the right to play out his contract, the chance to correct for one tough season in 11. Figgins has had plenty of opportunities, and may well be down to his last in Seattle.