The Mariners were always nervous about making changes with Ichiro Suzuki. It took them several years to try him in center field, and when they finally moved him from the leadoff spot this year, they gave him plenty of notice to see how he’d react.
Now, with Monday’s trade to the Yankees, Ichiro’s world is about to be turned upside down.
In New York, Ichiro will have to…
1. Give up his No. 51
2. Play left field most of the time
3. Hit lower in a lineup than ever before
Taking the first of those, technically Bernie Williams’ No. 51 isn’t retired in the Bronx, though it hasn’t been handed out since he retired. It’s a given that it’s only a matter of time until it is retired, and thus, Ichiro isn’t going to try to lay claim to it.
The other two are on-field issues. Ichiro has never played left field in a regular-season game, though he indicated that he is agreeable to it. It will be more interesting to see how he handles hitting at the bottom of the order. At today’s press conference, manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to talk to Ichiro about the lineup before making any announcements. Odds are that Ichiro is going to hit ninth most of the time, just like Brett Gardner did before he got hurt.
That’s going to be a lot for Ichiro to deal with, and it may challenge him, given the amount of pride he’s displayed in his Hall of Fame career. The fact that it is the Yankees could make a difference. Ichiro certainly wouldn’t have been happy batting ninth and playing left field for the Mariners and maybe not any other team. However, he clearly has a lot of respect for the pinstripes, maybe for Joe Girardi, too. It really is a good fit for him, and if he can make the most of it over these next couple of months, he’ll be in much greater demand this winter than he would have been otherwise.