The Yankees have announced their two-year deal with Ichiro Suzuki. To open a spot on the 40-man roster, they’ve designated RHP Jim Miller for assignment. Here’s the announcement.
Suzuki, 39, was acquired by the Yankees from Seattle on July 23, 2012, along with cash considerations in exchange for right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. In 67 games with the Yankees, Suzuki batted .322 (73-for-227) with 28 runs, 13 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 27 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Of his 56 starts with the Yankees, 26 were in left field, 24 in right field, five in center field and one was as the designated hitter. Prior to the 2012 season, he had made just one career start in left field (2001 ALCS Game 5 with Seattle at the Yankees).
“The Yankees are the kind of team that I always envisioned being a part of,” Suzuki said. “Everyone in the world of competition has a strong desire to win, but the Yankees also have an atmosphere where losing is not an option. These two observations may sound similar, but I believe it is a rarity to find both coexisting in the same organization.
“I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39 year old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39 year old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft. I am very thankful, and I will do my best to deliver on their expectations.”
Suzuki hit safely in each of his first 12 games with the Yankees, tying Don Slaught (1988) for the longest hitting streak to begin a Yankees career. Suzuki hit five homers with the Yankees — all at Yankee Stadium — after hitting just four home runs in 95 games to start the year with Seattle. Overall in 2012, Suzuki batted .283 (178-for-629) with 77 runs, 28 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 55 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 162 games with the Mariners and the Yankees.
Suzuki, a left-handed hitter who throws with his right hand, owns a .322 (2,606-for-8,085) career batting average with 1,204 runs, 308 doubles, 80 triples, 104 home runs, 660 RBI, 452 stolen bases, 518 walks and a .365 on-base percentage in 1,911 games. Among active players, he ranks second in steals behind only Juan Pierre (591), third in batting average (min: 3,000PA) and fourth in hits. His 2,606 career hits are the most by any player through his first 12 Major League seasons and are 310 more than any other Major Leaguer has totaled since Suzuki’s debut in 2001.
He has recorded at least 150 hits in each of his first 12 Major League seasons, joining Paul Waner (first 14 straight from 1926-39), Richie Ashburn (first 13 from 1948-60) and Albert Pujols (first 12 from 2001-12) as the only players to accomplish the feat in the Live Ball Era. Additionally, Suzuki has stolen at least 20 bases in each of his 12 Major League seasons, joining Rickey Henderson (first 23 seasons) and Ozzie Smith (first 16 seasons) as the only players with streaks as long from the beginning of their careers.
Suzuki has played in a Major League-high 1,911 games since 2001 and appeared in at least 155 games in 11 different seasons, tying for the fifth-most such seasons all time. The only Major Leaguers with more 155-game seasons are Cal Ripken (15), Pete Rose (15), Eddie Murray (12) and Billy Williams (12). Suzuki has made 1,845 starts as an outfielder (1,549 in RF, 270 in CF and 26 in LF) and owns a career fielding percentage of .992 with just 33 errors in 4,284 total chances.
A two-time AL batting champion (.350 in 2001 and .372 in 2004), Suzuki has led or tied for the Major League lead in hits seven times (2001, ’04, ‘06-10), tying Pete Rose and Ty Cobb for the most such seasons all time. Additionally, he is the only player in Major League history to accomplish the feat in five consecutive years. From his debut season through 2010, he finished first or second in the AL in hits every year, and in 2011, he finished ninth.
Prior to playing in the Majors, Suzuki played for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League for nine seasons (1992-2000) and was named the league’s MVP three times (1994-96). In 951 career games with Orix, he hit .353 (1,278-for-3,619) with 653 runs, 211 doubles, 23 triples, 118 home runs, 529 RBI and 199 stolen bases. Suzuki led the league in batting average for a Japanese-record seven straight years (1994-2000), while also winning a Gold Glove Award and being named to the Pacific League’s “Best Nine” in each of those seven seasons.
Suzuki is one of six Japan-born players in Yankees franchise history, joining Hideki Irabu (1997-99), Hideki Matsui (2003-09), Kei Igawa (2007-08), Hiroki Kuroda (2012) and Ryota Igarashi (2012).
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated RHP Jim Miller for assignment.
Associated Press photo