Player of the week: Ichiro Suzuki

Although the Seattle Mariners struggled last week, no one can blame Ichiro Suzuki for their follies. Over seven games from June 11-17, the sixth-year pro from Japan picked up 16 hits in 31 at-bats, stole five bases and scored three runs. During a three-game series against the Houston Astros, Ichiro went 9-for-13, including 4-for-5 in the finale. The only thing missing for Ichiro, who raised his batting average to .356 and his on-base percentage to .408 with the tear, were wins, as his Mariners dropped five straight during his hot streak.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

Baltimore made Sam Perlozzo the first managerial victim of 2007 when he was fired following a disastrous 1-8 homestand, dropping the Orioles’ record to a dismal 29-40. Granted, Perlozzo didn’t have much to work with, but he never came close to re-establishing the winning atmosphere Davey Johnson created in the mid-’90s. The firing of Perlozzo, who went 122-164 during parts of three seasons in Baltimore, came after much speculation and now the focus will shift to other managers on the hot seat. With Charlie Manuel (Philadelphia Phillies) and Joe Torre (New York Yankees) restoring semblances of order to their teams, the next likely target could be Texas Rangers rookie skipper Ron Washington, whose team looks completely out of sync.

This week was a rough one for many of the majors’ premier starting pitchers. Oft-injured Toronto Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett was again put on the 15-day DL with a shoulder ailment, Arizona Diamondbacks aging fireballer Randy Johnson was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back and Boston’s Curt Schilling is headed for the DL despite good news from an MRI exam on his right shoulder. The biggest blow might have been dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who learned their top free-agent grab, Jason Schmidt, required major surgery on his right shoulder and won’t return until next season.

Detroit Tigers postseason hero Kenny Rogers, who threw 23 scoreless innings and picked up three (sometimes controversial) wins in the playoffs last year, will make his season debut today against the Atlanta Braves. The left-hander had surgery to repair a blood clot during spring training. The Tigers’ staff has performed admirably in Rogers’ stead (most notably Justin Verlander), but the southpaw’s comeback is needed, as Detroit pitchers have suffered a recent series of injuries, including starter Nate Robertson, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with what was termed a “tired arm.”

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

CUBS AT WHITE SOX (Today-Sunday): A crosstown rivalry between two of baseball’s most disappointing teams will take place this weekend. Both teams entered the season with high expectations, but the White Sox’s offense has been about as abysmal as the Cubs’ clubhouse chemistry. Still, Carlos Zambrano is a must-see.

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