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Ichiro Taking A Wait-And-See Approach About Role With Revamped Yankees

Veteran Outfielder 258 Hits Short Of 3,000, But Could See At-Bats Scaled Way Back
Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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TAMPA, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Ichiro Suzuki watched as the New York Yankees added Jacoby Ellsbury and then Carlos Beltran to an outfield that already included Brett Gardner and the Japanese star plus Alfonso Soriano, a backup who figures to see time at designated hitter.

What did he think?

Suzuki gave his reply, and his interpreter started to translate.

“Obviously I don’t get frustrated or angry,” the interpreter said. “My reaction was kind — “

And then Suzuki leaned forward and interrupted.

“Oops,” he said in English, smiling.

“That’s the reaction,” the interpreter said.

The 40-year-old outfielder arrived from Japan after spending nine seasons with the Pacific League’s Orix Blue Wave, and he won the AL batting title, Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in 2001. He became a 10-time All-Star and won a second batting crown in 2004, when his 262 hits broke the season record George Sisler set 84 years earlier.

He had a record 10 straight seasons with 200 or more hits, but as his skills eroded, the Mariners dealt him to the Yankees in July 2012. He has a chance to reach 3,000 hits — he enters the season with 2,742, but he might not get a lot of at-bats in New York.

“I do have goals and dreams about certain things, but when you get into the late 30s, you just have to take it year by year,” he said. “At this point right now, that’s something that I’m not thinking about. Obviously, if it gets closer, if it’s something that I could reach and get, you probably start thinking about it.”

His bat revived when he first joined the Yankees — Suzuki hit .322 and earned a $13 million, two-year contract that pays him $6.5 million this season. But he batted just .262 with a .297 on-base percentage last season, part of a Yankees’ lineup that fizzled much of the time.

Following the team’s retooling, he might be better off if he’s traded. But he doesn’t want to think about that possibility too much just yet.

“Obviously with the addition, I’m going to have to find a place for myself,” he said. “My job up to this point was to come here healthy, in good shape, and that’s what I did. And so I’m here, and we’ll see where it goes.”

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