Ichiro’s health concerns M’s

PEORIA, Ariz. — Ichiro Suzuki missed his third straight day with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday because of illness, and the concern is starting to grow with the regular season beginning Monday.

The Mariners’ star right fielder and leadoff hitter saw doctors Thursday afternoon, including team physician Dr. Mitch Storey. The Mariners expected to have an update on Suzuki today.

“He said he’s tired. He’s got some fatigue,” manager Don Wakamatsu said before Thursday’s 18-3 Mariners victory over the San Diego Padres. “We’re going to make sure that nothing’s wrong and have him checked out by the doctor.”

Suzuki played four games with the Mariners after returning from the World Baseball Classic, which Japan won on March 23. He went 5-for-12 in those exhibitions but came out of Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers after two innings and two at-bats because he was feeling light-headed.

He hasn’t played since and has only checked in with the team at its spring training facility before leaving.

Wakamatsu said he expected Suzuki to make the trip to Las Vegas, where the Mariners will play their final two exhibitions tonight and Saturday. They will fly to Minneapolis after Saturday’s game, work out on Sunday and begin the regular season Monday against the Minnesota Twins.

The Mariners have said Suzuki could be fatigued because of the travel and stress of the WBC.

Catcher Kenji Johjima, who also played on Japan’s WBC team, told Japanese reporters that he felt similar fatigue the first day after he joined the Mariners. Johjima said he felt lucky to have overcome his condition quickly, and he has started five of the Mariners’ seven exhibitions since he joined the team.

Suzuki, who got the winning hit when Japan beat Korea in the WBC final, said the pressure to repeat as WBC champions was tremendous on the Japanese players. As the face of Japanese baseball, much of the pressure fell squarely on Suzuki.

“Compared to three years ago, the expectation from the people of Japan was incomparable this time,” he told reporters who cover the Mariners on March 26 after he rejoined the team. “To become champions in that situation was something that has a lot of meaning for me. What kind of emotion and expectation the Japanese players played upon was something that you can’t imagine. That’s how much was riding on this.”

Suzuki rarely takes a day off during the season. He played all 162 games last year and hasn’t played less than 161 games since the 2003 season. He has never been on the disabled list since coming to the Mariners from Japan in 2001.

Without Suzuki, the Mariners have used outfielder Endy Chavez as their leadoff hitter. Chavez went 3-for-3 Thursday with a home run and four RBI, lifting his exhibition batting average to a team-best .500.

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