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At his request, Ichiro leaves M's, lands with Yankees

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki, the face of the Seattle Mariners franchise for over a decade, is now a New York Yankee.

Ichiro asked for a trade through his agent, Tony Attanasio, just after the All-Star break, and this wasn't your standard trade-deadline deal.

With a salary of $17 million this season, Ichiro isn't for just anybody. He's not even for general managers. Most of the initial back-and-forth was done at the very upper level of the Seattle and New York organizations.

Only later were general managers Brian Cashman of the Yankees and Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners brought into the loop.

In the end, the Yankees got Ichiro for minor league right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Seattle also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to the Yankees.

Ichiro came to the Mariners in 2001 and redefined the relationship between Japanese and American baseball. Before his arrival, a few Japanese pitchers had made the jump across the Pacific, but no position player. He was the best player in Japan, and he quickly became one of the best players in North America, winning the American League Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards for a Seattle team that won a record 116 games in 2001.

That was the last time the Mariners made it to the playoffs, however, despite Ichiro grinding out 200-hit season after 200-hit season. A career .322 hitter, his numbers took a tumble last year (.272) and this year (.261).

When he requested a deal, he didn't request the Yankees, but he clearly was delighted to head to Gotham with a chance to get back to the playoffs. He has some former teammates (Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano, Freddy Garcia), friends (Alex Rodriguez) and All-Star Game buddies (Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira) in the Yankees clubhouse, so the transition shouldn't be as difficult as if he were heading into a great unknown.

There will be one issue. He's going to be asked to play left field once Nick Swisher is healthy enough to play right field, and left isn't a position that Ichiro has much experience with.

As it happens, his last appearance in left field was in the 2001 playoffs in Yankee Stadium.

"I think the transition for him will be smooth," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He brings speed and electricity to the lineup; that's something we lost when Gardy (left fielder Brett Gardner) got hurt. There are times when you simply need to create a run. You need that type of hitter."

Ichiro hasn't been that kind of hitter the last couple of years, but the Mariners haven't put together a lineup that has been conducive for him. Instead of being free to be a run creator, he's been asked increasingly to be a run producer, including a change from leadoff to No. 3 in the batting order at the beginning of the season, an experiment that didn't go down all that well.

He was in the New York lineup Monday at Seattle, batting eighth and playing right field with Swisher unavailable.

Ichiro said he thought it was only fair to the Seattle organization that it be free to proceed with its rebuilding plans. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said the team had no plans to trade Ichiro, but once the request was put to him, "It would have been selfish of us to not at least explore (trades)."

It didn't take long for his new teammates to get on Ichiro's case. He was still dressed in a suit and tie when he entered the Yankees clubhouse for the first time. Soriano came up to him, gave him a big hug, then mockingly warned him that he'd better not be late for the team's pregame stretching.

Ichiro opted against wearing 51 for the Yankees, a number that hasn't been worn since Bernie Williams retired. He instead has Dave Winfield's old number, 31.

The Mariners used second-year player Carlos Peguero in right field Monday, but manager Eric Wedge said he could see a number of players at the position.

Peguero played mostly right field at Triple-A Tacoma, so he has the most current experience in right and thus got Monday's call. However, Casper Wells is an above-average defensive player with a powerful throwing arm who could move there, although he's mostly been playing left.

Things won't settle down ultimately until Mike Carp (soon) and Franklin Gutierrez (maybe a couple of weeks) come off the disabled list. Gutierrez could return to center, and Michael Saunders, who has been in center most of the season, could get time in right.

"This gives us a chance to play young players on a more consistent basis," Wedge said. "It's not going to be any one player. At some point we'll get Gutierrez back and Carp back, too. Ultimately it's about winning ballgames."

As for the minor-leaguers the Mariners received for Ichiro, one of the two has been well-traveled this year.

Farquhar, 25, has appeared in the Blue Jays, A's and Yankees farm systems in 2012. In 32 total relief appearances, he is 2-3 with five saves and a 3.33 ERA.

Mitchell, 25, was 6-4 with a 5.04 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) this season for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He also made three relief appearances for the Yankees, allowing two runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Both were assigned to Tacoma.
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