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'Complicated': Dipoto discusses optioning Heredia

GM says decision based on upcoming matchups, Ichiro's clubhouse contributions
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto understands the negative reaction from many fans to sending outfielder Guillermo Heredia down to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday and instead keeping aging veteran Ichiro Suzuki on the roster.

But Dipoto said keeping Ichiro at this point isn't about public relations, rather managing the 25-man roster as best as possible through some tricky scenarios.

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SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto understands the negative reaction from many fans to sending outfielder Guillermo Heredia down to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday and instead keeping aging veteran Ichiro Suzuki on the roster.

But Dipoto said keeping Ichiro at this point isn't about public relations, rather managing the 25-man roster as best as possible through some tricky scenarios.

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"Based on the reaction, if it was about PR, we probably would have done it the other way," Dipoto said.

What the Mariners are doing is buying time to work through several unexpected occurrences. A short outing by James Paxton in Saturday's win over the Rangers prevented the club from sending down a reliever and sticking with a five-man outfield for now, as had been the plan.

Further roster decisions are pending with the return of first baseman Ryon Healy, who is rehabbing from a sprained ankle with Double-A Arkansas and expected back in a few days.

Dipoto isn't ready to jettison Ichiro yet because he sees value beyond the playing field production and wants to keep him in the organization in some capacity rather than designating him for assignment at this point.

The 44-year-old is hitting .250/.289/.250 in 36 at-bats after going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks in Sunday's 7-4 loss at Texas. His 3,089 career hits rank 22nd on the all-time Major League list.

"Sometimes, managing a 25-man roster is more complicated than it seems from the outside," Dipoto said. "I don't think people realize the impact Ichiro has made in our clubhouse in one-and-a-half months in mentoring young teammates and even the older players who respect him so much.

"There has to be a balance in decisions and not solely what you see on the field. And that's not to take away from the quality of teammate Guillermo is as well. This was not an easy decision, but it's also not a permanent decision. Right now we're just doing our best to work through some choppy waters with the roster."

After facing left-hander Martin Perez in Sunday's series finale in Texas, Dipoto notes the Mariners won't face another southpaw starter for the remainder of their road trip. While Heredia has hit right-handers well in limited opportunities this season, his career line against right-handers is .225/.312/.297, as opposed to .290/.350/.411 vs. lefties.

Video: SEA@MIN: Heredia crushes a two-run shot to left

"Outside of today, we won't see another left-hander for 10 days," Dipoto said. "That's Guillermo's niche, so he wouldn't be playing much more than late-game defense. Our thought while navigating through this is to give Guillermo the chance to play regularly and my assumption is he'll be back in 10 days."

In other words, things aren't completely settled yet with a Mariners roster that already has seen designated hitter Nelson Cruz, catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Ben Gamel and now Ramirez return from the disabled list in the last week.

Once the pieces settle, Heredia definitely remains a part of the long-term plan. The 27-year-old has hit .310 with two homers and four RBIs in 29 at-bats in the early going and is regarded as an outstanding defender.

"This was not an easy decision and not something we love," Dipoto said. "Guillermo is a big part of what we do. We anticipate him being with us throughout the season."

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

Seattle Mariners, Guillermo Heredia, Ichiro Suzuki