The prospect of Ichiro Suzuki pitching in an MLB game is something baseball fans have been clamoring for since his debut in 2001, all the while thinking there was no scenario in which it would be possible. But now that Ichiro's older and his role with the Yankees is limited to that of a backup outfielder, it seems the scenario is very much in play should the stars align.
Manager Joe Girardi admitted as much to the New York Times on Thursday.
“I’ll definitely ask him if he can do it,” Girardi said. “It looks like he has pretty good stuff.”
Get ready, folks. The next time the New York Yankees need an emergency pitcher — which given how this season is playing out around MLB could be any minute now — it's conceivable Ichiro will get the call.
And the idea behind it is not as crazy as it might sound. Ichiro actually started out as a star pitcher in high school before an arm injury forced him to change positions. He moved to first base initially to protect his arm, but being the all around baseball talent he was, Ichiro moved to the outfield and focused on developing his offensive game. Needless to say, that was a good decision. Ichiro became one of the top hitters in all of Japan, where he collected 1,278 hits in nine professional seasons, and the rest has become history.
He also made a one-time only return to the mound during the 1996 Japanese All-Star game, showing off his fastball.
It's that appearance that has always intrigued fans. His stuff was undoubtedly impressive, but how would it hold up against MLB competition? That was always the question, and we may soon get some semblence of an answer, although obviously 18 years is a long time and it would hardly be under the same circumstances.
“I would be happy to help if they need me,” Ichiro told the New York Times through his translator.
Suzuki adds that he has three pitches he's confident in.
Fastball and slider, he said with pride. But like all Japanese pitchers, the splitter is my bread and butter.”
Social media might implode if we ever see that splitter in a game that counts, and that day may come sooner than later. As the Times pointed out, New York used 21 players during their 13-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. That included every bench player and reliever. The last time they did that prior to Sept. 1, when rosters can expand, was 1970. Had Wednesday's game continued, Girardi may have been forced to turn to a position player on the mound. Should another game like it happen for the weekend, it could be the same situation as the team's pitching staff is obviously taxed.
If so, Ichiro will be ready, but there's a scenario in his mind that would be most ideal.
Maybe it can be something that the fans would like to see at Yankee Stadium, or maybe Safeco Field, he said. It would be a fun thing to do.
Safeco Field would be very cool, but we won't be that picky. We'll just take an Ichiro relief appearance whenever and wherever we can get it.
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