Oh boy, this might be fun.
For tonight it’ll be business as usual because the Yankees are playing the Rays and Tampa Bay is going after a playoff spot, but manager Joe Girardi just told reporters that he’s “absolutely” considering using Mariano Rivera in center field during the final series in Houston.
Rivera has always loved shagging fly balls in the outfield–that’s how he injured his knee last season–and has talked in the past about wanting to play center field, even for just an inning. And why not give him a shot? It’s not like the Astros will care, I’m sure the Yankees and their fans would get a huge kick out of it, and the possibility of Rivera chasing after a fly ball and having to contend with that crazy hill in Houston’s outfield sounds all kinds of fun.
I mean, if position players can pitch in blowouts on a relatively regular basis why can’t Rivera be a position player for 20 minutes? And then maybe he can pitch the next inning.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.
I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.
Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.
Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?