The imbalance on the Mariners roster — expensive veterans and unproven youngsters with no mid-career players carrying the team — is starting to get to manager Eric Wedge.
In a blunt conversation with reporters before Sunday’s game, Wedge talked about lineup adjustments.
“We don’t have any veteran guys doing anything right now,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.
“So I can’t say it any plainer. We’ve got six to seven guys we’re starting today that are 25 or younger. The young guys are going to have to do it, because the veteran guys aren’t getting it done. There’s just no way of getting around it.
“You look at all the other major league teams, and they’ve got at least one guy, if not two or three, that they can count on as veteran guys who are experienced big league hitters. So our young guys are going to have to step up and do it. I have no problem saying that. And I believe they can. But it’s just harder without having that guy, or a couple guys ideally, at this level.”
That may include changes for Ichiro, who was moved from leadoff to third in the lineup this season. His numbers are up a bit from a year ago, which was the worst of his career, but it’s not enough for what the team needs from a No. 3 hitter.
He entered Sunday hitting .288 and was third on the team with 13 RBIs. His .388 slugging percentage is up from last year’s .335.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to be doing a lot of damage,” Wedge said. “He’s going to get his hits, and hopefully he gets his hits at the right time. Where he ultimately ends up, we’ll see. But right now, that’s where he is, and we have to work to get these young hitters going who profile better for different areas of our lineup. But they’ve got to get themselves going and be more consistent.”
Wedge wasn’t clear about what was going to happen, but it seems that Ichiro as well as Dustin Ackley could be moved around.
“I don’t know where either one of them will end up,” Wedge said. “It depends on what the supporting cast does, because I feel like all of them have a lot more upside. They’re just so young. Whether Ackley ends up 1-2-3, whether Ichiro ends up 1-2-3 or somewhere else, we’ll see. It just depends on what we see production-wise.
“Ichiro is by no means your prototypical three-hole hitter, but that’s where we need him right now. And when it comes to the point in time where we feel we need him somewhere else, that’s when we’ll do that.”
Besides Ichiro, 38, the Mariners have benched Chone Figgins, 34, and Brendan Ryan, 30, has been superb in the field and helpless at the plate most of the season. While pitching abounds in the minor leagues, there is no young position player doing well enough yet to rate a promotion.