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Ichiro takes live BP, could play by Sunday

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The familiar batting stance and sweet swing of Ichiro Suzuki was confined to a backfield at the Peoria Sports Complex, but the 44-year-old was back in business with the Mariners on Friday as he took his first live batting practice against reliever Nick Vincent.

And for the venerable veteran, it was another welcome step in what has been a remarkable reunion.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The familiar batting stance and sweet swing of Ichiro Suzuki was confined to a backfield at the Peoria Sports Complex, but the 44-year-old was back in business with the Mariners on Friday as he took his first live batting practice against reliever Nick Vincent.

And for the venerable veteran, it was another welcome step in what has been a remarkable reunion.

"The facility has changed and some things have changed. But it really feels good. It is home," Ichiro said through interpreter Allen Turner. "You feel at peace because you see faces you're familiar with. Even the views coming out of the facility, wherever I go to look, I just feel at peace."

Ichiro said he's ready to play as soon as he gets the call from manager Scott Servais and expects that could be as early as Sunday, after he ripped a couple of line drives and blooped what would have been a single to left in his first opportunity to face live pitching.

"I think I've done everything I can possibly do to get ready to play in a game," Ichiro said. "There's only so much you can get from practice. Then you get ready by playing the game."

Tweet from @GregJohnsMLB: Ichiro facing Nick Vincent in first live BP. pic.twitter.com/Q9FlpxuScu

Vincent, slowed by a sore right arm early in camp, threw about 25 pitches to Ichiro and right fielder Mitch Haniger in his final tune-up before advancing to Cactus League action himself. Haniger, out since the start of camp with a sore right hand, is also slated to begin playing in games as early as Saturday.

Servais wasn't ready to finalize anything yet, but he has liked what he has seen from Ichiro's early work

"I don't want to timetable on it," Servais said. "We need to see Ichi run around the bases a little bit. I don't want to just fire him into a game and have a setback there. We have to be smart."

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Haniger is more likely to get the call for Saturday night's game against the Reds in Goodyear and said his hand felt great. He got a kick out of the large group of cameras and media focused on what normally would have been a quiet day on the backfield.

"It's not for me," Haniger said with a smile. "I'm like a kid, too, around him. I get it. I know why everyone is around. I'm the same way."

Servais said Haniger indeed could be in the lineup on Saturday.

"He could," Servais said. "He's farther along in his conditioning and has been on the field defensively and doing some other things. But we want to see how they come out today before putting them in the lineup."

Servais is optimistic about what Ichiro can bring to the club, beyond just his bat.

"It's pretty cool, I've got to admit," Servais said of his first impression. "I'm excited. I had a really good meeting with him this morning. Kind of laying what my expectations were, getting some feedback from him. It's really important we get on the same page."

Video: Servais on Ichiro's impact to the Mariners roster

His expectations?

"Just help our team win," Servais said. "Simple. Anything you can do. It doesn't always have to be getting three hits every night. It can be helping someone else on the team, picking something off a pitcher, stolen base, defensive positioning. This guy has been a fantastic player. He knows how to play.

"We have to use him as a resource, and it's not just to go out and hit .350. We'd take it, but it's more to it than that. We're not expecting it. Just come in, be part of the team, and help us win. Simple."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki