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04/09/12 7:48 PM ET
Kawasaki to renew acquaintances with Darvish
Infielder hit .221 in 86 at-bats vs. Rangers starter in Japan
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- With Mariners designated hitter Jesus Montero dealing with a stomach issue Monday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge opted for a familiar face to replace him against Yu Darvish in his Rangers debut Monday. Japanese infielder Munenori Kawasaki will start at second base against Darvish, with Dustin Ackley taking Montero's place at designated hitter. Kawasaki, 30, regularly faced Darvish's Nippon Ham team while with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan's Pacific League the past five years. Kawasaki is a career .221 hitter (19-for-86) against Darvish with one home run, 10 RBIs, two walks and 19 strikeouts. Kawasaki excelled against Darvish in 2010 when he went 10-for-19 (.526), but last season he was 3-for-27 (.111) with just three infield singles. "It helps with our advance meeting and just general conversation with the guys," Wedge said. "It's good to have somebody in there who has seen him before." Ichiro Suzuki will also face his fellow countryman in the 5:05 p.m. PT start; Ichiro has never batted against Darvish in an official game. According to Japanese reporters, the two did square off in practice-type situations before the 2006 and '09 World Baseball Classics when they were playing for Japan. Ichiro reportedly singled off Darvish once and grounded out in the other unofficial at-bat. Kawasaki is a first-year utility player for the Mariners and made his first start Saturday in place of shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was out with a sore neck. Ryan is back in the lineup Monday. Montero, 22, missed a couple days of camp with a similar stomach problem, but said he's never had an issue before this spring. "I think he needs to stay away from the seafood, as far as I'm concerned," Wedge said. "It seems like every time his stomach goes under he's had sushi or some sort of fish. So hopefully he can figure that out. He's feeling better. I just told him to get strong in case we need him."