With the offseason free agent additions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, along with returners Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki finds himself in an unfamiliar place for the first time in his career: reserve outfielder and possibly expendable. The Yankees have made it known that Suzuki is available, but Ichiro doesn’t want to fall into a trap where he appears to be a malcontent based upon his playing time.
When asked if he would prefer to go somewhere else where his playing time would be increased, he laughed and responded: “I’m not going to fall for questions like that.” Suzuki had the worst season of his professional career in 2013, hitting .262 with a .297 on-base percentage after signing a 2-year deal with $13 million. He did steal 20 bases and record 5 outfield assists. Not too shabby for a 39-year-old. As of right now, he will be relegated to fifth outfielder status, but that hasn’t discouraged him from being prepared and ready to play whenever manager Joe Girardi calls upon him, saying:
This is a place where the greatest players gather and play so I’m really excited to play with those guys…Obviously, with the additions, I’m going to have to find a place for myself but I’ve worked hard this offseason . . . my job up to this point was to come here healthy and in good shape and that’s what I did.
Ichiro coming into the 2014 season, is still 258 hits shy of 3,000 for his Major League career. He surpassed the 4,000 career hit plateau combined between Japan and the Major Leagues last season. The 2001 American League Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year still believes he can contribute, and whether it’s in New York, or somewhere else, he is going to be prepared, and he will be the professional he has always been.