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Suzuki strolls across hall to make Yankee debut

Breaks free of 12-year-old tie with Mariners

  • AFP
  • Published: 14:02 July 24, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • New York Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki heads into the Yankees’ dugout after briefly taking the field before a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Seattle on Monday. Suzuki, who has played with the Mariners since 2001, was traded to the Yankees.

Seattle: Ichiro Suzuki was greeted by cheers at Safeco Field while wearing his new Yankees uniform just hours after being dealt by the Seattle Mariners to the visiting New York ballclub.

The 38-year-old from Japan, who spent his entire 12-year Major League Baseball career with the Mariners, was traded by Seattle to New York on Monday for a pair of minor-league pitchers.

“It’s a very unusual set of circumstances, it goes without saying,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge.

Suzuki faced his Seattle teammates as the Mariners began a three-game series by hosting the Yankees on Monday night. But general manager Jack Zduriencik said the trade wasn’t planned that way.

“The fact it happened like it happened, it was more just circumstance and coincidence,” Zduriencik said.

“There’ll be a lot of fans who come out and pay tribute to him, which he deserves.

“To play three games here in another uniform, that’s very unique and I’m looking forward to it on one sense. The other sense, the emotional side is tied to it. Very unique.”

Suzuki moved to the United States in 2001 after playing nine years for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League.

As the first Japanese-born everyday position player in the MLB he helped open the door for other Japanese stars like Hideki Matsui and Kenji Johjimato to join American baseball clubs.

He received a standing ovation from the crowd of 29,911 on Monday as he batted one-for-four in a 4-1 win which snapped a four-game New York losing streak.

“It is special to put on a Yankees uniform,” Suzuki said. “I am going from a team that had the most losses to a team that has the most wins so it is hard to contain my excitement.”

Suzuki got some help from new teammate and Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who struck out nine Mariners and allowed just one hit in seven solid innings for New York.

The 10-time all-star, is a .322 career hitter and was the American League MVP in 2001. He was also named AL rookie of the year that same season.

The 38-year-old Suzuki leads the Mariners all-time in hits, triples and runs scored. He is in the final year of his contract.

“Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop,” said Mariners chief executive Howard Lincoln.

Suzuki, a right fielder, led MLB in hits seven times, tying Pete Rose and Ty Cobb for the most all-time.

He belted a league record 262 hits in 2004 and his 10 consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits is also a MLB record.

Suzuki helped Japan win the World Baseball Classic title in 2006 and another one three years later.

He has hit four homers, has 15 stolen bases and is batting .261 this season. Suzuki is Seattle’s all-time leader in hits (2,533), runs scored (1,176), triples (79) and at-bats (7,858).

His signing is expected to add depth to the Yankees already potent attack. New York wanted to beef up their lineup because of an injury to outfielder Brett Gardner, who needs surgery on his right elbow.

“We are very excited to have him,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Suzuki. “We feel that he brings a speed element.

“At times he’ll play some right [field] if I need to give [Nick Swisher] a day off, but our plan is to play him in left field.”

Earlier this month, Suzuki and his Japanese teammates Munenori Kawasaki and Hisashi Iwakuma were instrumental in helping the Mariners beat Baltimore 6-3.

It marked the first time in history that three Japanese players were in the starting lineup of a MLB club.

“He’s done some great things in the league,” said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. “Offense, defense, there’s a lot of different ways he can beat you. He’s been as consistent as anyone.”

The Mariners received right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar in exchange for Suzuki.

The 25-year-old Mitchell has spent most of the season with Triple-A Scranton, while Farquhar, 25, has spent the 2012 season in the minor league systems of three franchises, Toronto, Oakland and New York.

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