The Cheap Seats with Steve Cameron: Ichiro playing? Then let Felix have the ball

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Give Felix the ball.

What the hell difference will it make?

When the Mariners open their regular season against the A’s March 20 in Tokyo, no one will care who’s pitching.

Everything, absolutely everything, will be about Ichiro Suzuki returning to his homeland as a future Hall of Famer.

M’s pitcher Wade LeBlanc put it in perspective: “He’s a God over there,” LeBlanc said of Ichiro. “I don’t throw that around lightly, either.”

Seattle Manager Scott Servais could summon a 13-year-old girl from the stands to handle the opening day starting chores, and nobody would notice.

The M’s entire trip to Japan to open this season is all about Ichiro — who may or may not be satisfied to play only as a ceremonial piece in two-game series, then retire once again.

But what happens with Ichiro after the team gets back to the mainland can be worked out later.

It might actually turn out to be uncomfortable for Servais and GM Jerry Dipoto, because Ichiro thinks he can still be a major league regular.

Why beg for another soap opera when you may have one coming with Ichiro?

WHY NOT just give the ball to Felix Hernandez for that first game in Japan?

Especially since no one will care, and it’s just one game?

Why make a fuss over starting Marco Gonzales (13-9, 4.00 ERA in 2018), just to remind fans that the Mariners’ plans are based — seriously, in their own words — on being competitive again in 2021?

If you’re going to have a season somewhere between crappy and average, why not give a little ground to a pitcher who has carried this franchise mostly by himself for more than a decade?

Look. Felix has not been good the past two or three years.

No one is arguing that.

And his spring training ERA is just short of 16 runs per nine innings — mostly because he refuses to throw more curveballs (yes, in defiance of Servais), even though he’s been getting hitters out with it.

Look, Felix is stubborn and totally in denial about how hitters are taking batting practice with his fastball.

But for one game, so what?

Maybe he’ll break out the curve and go seven scoreless innings.

King Felix has started 10 straight openers for the Mariners (and 11 overall), and even counting the years with some lost velocity, he’s 7-2 in those starts with an ERA of 1.52.

He’s allowed one run or less in six of them.

FELIX HAS already made it clear that he’s chapped about being overlooked for the honor of pitching on opening day.

Servais didn’t do himself any favors with the explanation, either.

“I respect that Felix has taken the ball on opening day for 10 years in a row,” Servais said.

“It’s been a tremendous run and he’s done awesome things, but I just think where we are at organizationally and where he’s at…this does give him more time to prepare for his first regular-season start, but it doesn’t make (this decision) any easier.

“It really doesn’t. But you try to take as much of the emotion out of it as you can and do what’s best for our ballclub.”


Take the emotion out of it?

Look if this is such a cold-blooded business that the Mariners must “take as much emotion out of it” as possible to win the first of 162 games, what is 45-year-old Ichiro Suzuki doing in the lineup?

Ichiro is a legend on two continents, but he hit .205 in a brief stint with the M’s last year, and managed two singles in his first 22 at-bats this spring.

He has no business on a major league roster — except on emotion alone.

The Mariners are being so two-faced with this emotion nonsense that Servais could eat soup and play the harmonica at the same time.

Isn’t that a little unfair to Felix Hernandez?

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball each Tuesday. This week’s Zags column will run on Thursday.

“Soup and harmonica” reference borrowed with smiles from Rick Reilly. He used to borrow my stuff back in the day.

Facebook: Steve Cameron

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA


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