Ichiro singles in first at-bat as Yankees top Mariners

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The Yankees ended their season-high four-game losing streak Monday, but this one was all about Ichiro Suzuki.

Facing his old teammates in the ballpark in which he spent 11 1/2 seasons, Ichiro got a huge ovation in his first at-bat for the Yankees and responded by bowing towards the Safeco Field crowd. He then promptly lined a single to center field and stole second base. It was his lone hit in four at-bats as the Yankees won 4-1.

Ichiro hit eighth and started in right field in his Yankees debut. Manager Joe Girardi said before the game that Ichiro would play mostly left field, but with Nick Swisher still nursing a hip flexor strain, Ichiro was able to start in his traditional spot tonight.

The eighth spot in the order was something new. Ichiro never hit lower than third in 1,844 games for the Mariners. However, given that he came into Monday batting .261/.288/.353 on the season, eighth or ninth is probably where he belongs in the Yankees lineup.

Ichiro also gave up his customary No. 51 and chose to wear No. 31 for the Yankees. No. 51 was Bernie Williams’ number, and while the Bombers haven’t retired it yet, they also haven’t issued it since he ended his career. Ichiro’s new No. 31 is the number Dave Winfield wore for the Yankees.

Taking over for Ichiro in right field for the Mariners tonight was Carlos Peguero. He went 0-for-3 and struck out twice, giving him 12 strikeouts versus just five hits in 24 at-bats for Seattle. The Mariners as a whole had three hits on the night.

Cardinals extend José Martínez through 2020

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First baseman/outfielder José Martínez agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cardinals on Saturday, per a team announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Martínez will receive $3.25 million in the deal plus incentives if he earns a more stable place within the starting lineup.

Martínez, 30, played 887 games in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals at the tail end of the 2016 season. The veteran first baseman has been nothing but productive in the three years since his debut, however, and turned in a career-best performance in 2018 after slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs, an .821 OPS, and 2.3 fWAR through 590 plate appearances. While he brings some positional flexibility to the table, he’ll be forced to compete against Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neill for a full-time gig in right field this year, as Paul Goldschmidt currently has a lock on first base.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the extension wasn’t solely precipitated by Martínez’s productivity in the majors, but by a competing offer from an unnamed Japanese team over the offseason. Goold adds that Martínez would have earned “significantly more than he would in the majors” had the club sold his rights. In the end, they ultimately elected to ink him to a more lucrative deal themselves. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2020.