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Thursday, April 9, 2009
Ichiro progressing in rehab

Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ichiro Suzuki looked like his All-Star self Thursday while going 7-for-10 in an extended spring training game, his first action since a bleeding ulcer sidelined the Seattle outfielder.
Suzuki
Suzuki

Playing against minor leaguers in an intrasquad game, he purposely avoided sliding while getting thrown out at home. He was put on the disabled list Friday for the first time in his career.

While his rebuilding Mariners were winning the finale of their season-opening series at Minnesota, the perennial Gold Glove outfielder led off every half-inning of the shortened game.

The 35-year-old remains on track to be activated from the DL on Wednesday, before the Mariners' second home game of the season.

"Well, it was the first game I've played in 10 days. It always feels good to play in games," Ichiro said through a translator. "I am very appreciative of the young players who were willing to play with me today."

And he added, "It's not like I haven't been playing all winter."

Ichiro hit .273 to lead Japan to the 2009 World Baseball Classic title. He had the game-winning, two-out, two-run single in a 5-3, 10-inning victory over Korea in the championship game March 24.

Ichiro resisted the idea of beginning the season on the DL, and he remains disappointed.

"I wanted to play. It was something that was chosen for me to do," he said. "There was nothing I can do about it. Especially because I had a strong feeling that this team is a young team and I wanted to start the season with them."

Asked if his ulcer remained an issue, Ichiro said: "It if was, I wouldn't be playing."

Ichiro has been an All-Star in all eight of his seasons with the Mariners and has eight Gold Gloves. Last year, when he tied with Boston's Dustin Pedroia for the major league lead with 213 hits, Ichiro set the modern record with his eighth consecutive 200-hit season. Willie Keeler (1894-1901) is the only other major leaguer with eight straight 200-hit years.

Ichiro will miss at least 10 games this season, after missing only 16 games in his eight Seattle seasons, when he never played fewer than 157 games. Until this week, he had missed only three games in five years.

He doesn't think he'll be joining the Mariners this weekend in Oakland, as some had thought.

"I think I'll play one more game here before moving on to Seattle after that. It depends on how my body reacts," he said.

Ichiro had four singles, a double and two triples off seven pitchers. That included Taiwanese right-hander Yao Wen Chang, who signed with Seattle for a reported $400,000 as a free agent on Nov. 4, 2007, and has a fastball in the low-90s mph range.

Ichiro swung and missed at only one of the 34 pitches he saw.

"Not bad," he said.

Ichiro ended one inning when he was thrown out at home plate on the back end of a double steal. He opted not to slide -- he simply went around the plate standing up.

"I didn't want the skipper to be mad at me," he said of new Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu. "I'm sure he wants me to be careful."