The Associated PressThe Seattle Mariners are running out of healthy outfielders. To the rescue — Ichiro?
Ben Gamel will miss Opening Day, the Mariners said Monday, because of a strained oblique muscle that’s expected to sideline him four to six weeks.
That could open a spot for Ichiro Suzuki, and a deal with the Mariners might be close.
Suzuki was the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year for Seattle in 2001 and remained a fan favorite until he was traded away in 2012.
The 44-year-old Suzuki spent the past three seasons in Miami, batting .255 last year and starting 23 times in the outfield.
Gamel hit .275 with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs in 134 games last year during his first full season in the major leagues.
The Mariners were hopeful Gamel would miss only a few days, but an MRI showed a more extensive problem. He first felt the injury after batting practice late last week.
Gamel joined a growing list of banged-up Mariners.
Seattle has already seen first baseman Ryon Healy (hand), outfielder Mitch Haniger (hand) and pitcher Felix Hernandez (bruised forearm) slowed by injuries during spring training.
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, leaving Seattle thin at the position.
Lester works on throw to 1st
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester is trying a new approach when it comes to his biggest weakness.
One bounce at a time.
Lester is working with new third base coach Brian Butterfield on bouncing his throw to the bases when he has to make a play on defense. He got a chance to use the technique during Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Arizona in spring training, and the ball skipped past minor league first baseman Efren Navarro for an error.
Lester has struggled with throwing to bases for years, but the three-time World Series winner remains one of the game’s most effective pitchers. The 34-year-old left-hander is slated to start on Opening Day on March 29 at Miami.
“It’s just a different thing for him,” Butterfield said Monday. “Throwing a ball to a base for him in a quiet setting is far different than when he’s got to cock his arm in a game setting. You know, that’s understandable, just because pitchers for the most part, it’s probably a little bit more difficult for them to throw to the bases because they’ve made a living out of long arm action.
“Infielders, we try to shorten their backswing when they throw to the bases to become more accurate, so they’re a little bit more in tune throwing to the bases. Outfielders have trouble throwing batting practice when they become coaches because they’ve had that long arm swing.”
Ohtani goes hitless in loss
Meanwhile, Cincinnati center fielder Billy Hamilton sprinted to make a diving, backhanded catch in the gap to rob Shohei Ohtani of an extra-base hit as the Reds beat the Angels 5-3 in preseason action.