Marlins not rushing Ichiro's quest for 3,000 hits

Outfielder not in starting lineup vs. Mets, strikes out as pinch-hitter in 8th

Marlins not rushing Ichiro's quest for 3,000 hits

MIAMI -- When it comes to Ichiro Suzuki's quest for 3,000 MLB hits, history will take its course.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly isn't forcing the issue by throwing the 42-year-old out there hoping the milestone is reached as quickly as possible. That was evident on Friday in the series opener against the Mets at Marlins Park, as Ichiro was not in the starting lineup. Ichiro had a pinch-hit opportunity in the eighth inning of the 5-3 loss to the Mets, but he struck out on three pitches against right-hander Addison Reed.

Even though he had two hits on Thursday in a 9-3 win at Philadelphia, Ichiro returned to his fourth-outfielder role on Friday. He has 2,996 hits, just four shy of being the 30th player in MLB history to reach 3,000.

"It's just one of those things," Mattingly said. "We don't really have plans. Right now, there is no plan to say Ich is going to play this game. It could be tomorrow. It could be the next day. It could be four days from now, with him, depending what happens, health-wise, how guys are swinging the bat. Right now, our outfield has been pretty good."

Ichiro started in right field on Thursday as Giancarlo Stanton had the night off. And last Sunday at St. Louis, Ichiro started in center in place of Marcell Ozuna, collecting three hits.

Left fielder Christian Yelich doesn't get many scheduled off-days, so finding time to rest a regular is the issue.

"We'll see where it plays out," Mattingly said.

Ichiro frequently has started on day games, and the Marlins have one on Sunday against the Mets (1:10 p.m. ET) and Wednesday against the Phillies (12:10 p.m.).

Mattingly also has done a good job blending in his bench. Ichiro has appeared in 80 games, hitting .343/.419/.399 in 178 at-bats.

"What Ich has been able to do right now is just phenomenal," Mattingly said. "We talk about his age, but we really shouldn't. Because if you just look at him, and watch him play, if he'd use that hair dye that Keith Hernandez uses, then we wouldn't know he's above 30.

"But Ich keeps his body in shape. He has a tremendous work plan with what he does. Again, if you just look at his abilities right now -- watch him run, watch him throw, his defense right now, and his at-bats -- age is really not part of the equation right now."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.