Ichiro leading Cactus League with a .531 average

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ichiro Suzuki is at it again.

Sure, it's only spring training, but Seattle's star outfielder
is slapping the ball silly. He was leading the Cactus League with a
.531 average and 26 hits -- best in the majors -- going into the

With a sixth-inning triple Friday against Kansas City, Suzuki
stretched his hitting streak to all 15 of his spring games, tying a
Mariners record set by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.

After a historic season last year, when Suzuki broke an
84-year-old major league record with 262 hits, fans on both sides
of the Pacific Ocean are eager to see what he'll do for a

Can he become the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams batted
.406 in 1941? Maybe he can challenge Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game
hitting streak set that year. Suzuki was jokingly asked if he can
hit in all 162 games.

"If that happens, I'll quit baseball," he said through a
translator, returning serve with a playful laugh.

Not only did Suzuki make history with 262 hits in 2004, breaking
George Sisler's 1920 mark, but his 46-hit margin over runner-up
Michael Young of Texas (216) was the largest difference ever.

Suzuki became the first player with at least 200 hits in each of
his first four seasons, and his 924 hits from 2001-04 set another
major league mark for a four-year stretch. His 225 singles were
also a record.

Oh, and he hit .372 for his second American League batting

So what's next? Unfortunately for the curious, it goes against
Suzuki's nature to dive into forecasts.

"Those things occur so far ahead, and I really can't see that
far ahead," he said. "I've really got to focus on what I'm doing
right now. Of course, as a hitter, you want to get hits. There are
ways of getting hits.

"That's the fun part," he added. "Every at-bat is

But what about a .400 season?

Suzuki won't touch the question, explaining that he's only
committed to what's immediate. He'll allow, however, that his
strong hitting stems from minor changes he made last July --
widening his stance slightly to about 16 inches.

It's vintage Suzuki, as his new manager has found.

"His hand-eye coordination is great," Mike Hargrove said.
"But probably the biggest thing Ichiro does is he knows himself.
He stays within his boundaries. I don't know if I've ever run
across a more disciplined hitter."

If anyone today could challenge DiMaggio's 56-game streak, then,
you'd have to think it would be Suzuki. Too bad Suzuki doesn't
share that belief.

"A 56-game hitting streak? I don't think of that, not at all,"
he said. "I don't even think I've reached halfway there."

Just how good is Suzuki right now?

He's within reach of spring training club records for batting
average (.491, Edgar Martinez, 1996) and hits (35, Carlos Guillen,
1999). After a 2-for-4 night against the Angels last week, Suzuki's
average actually dropped -- from .579 to .571.

He even drew an intentional walk -- rare in spring games. Seattle
led Milwaukee 2-0 with one out and runners on the corners Thursday
when Brewers manager Ned Yost decided it was safer to take the bat
out of Suzuki's hands.

"You just can't bad-pitch around him," Yost said. "I know
it's only spring training, but if you try to bad-pitch around him,
he'll slap it through a hole and all of a sudden it's 3-0."

On Friday, Kansas City lefty Brian Anderson fanned Suzuki on a
check swing, his first strikeout in 50 plate appearances this
spring. Any hitter probably would take that kind of ratio.

Not Suzuki.

"When you get a bad result, of course you're disappointed," he

Don't forget that Suzuki, after all, set a Japanese League
record in 1997 with 216 plate appearances before striking out.

"But I wasn't too happy to do that," he said.