Eight days ago, Ichiro Suzuki was on the bench, and it seemed he might stay there for a while. Curtis Granderson was starting in right field, the other outfield positions were accounted for, and Ichiro was playing his way into fourth outfielder status.
Then Granderson was hurt again, and Ichiro was given a second chance. He’s hit .375/.400/.458 in the seven games since.
“His at-bats have been consistent,” Joe Girardi said. “He got to .280 (in early May) and then he went through a struggle. I almost think that, when a guy of his stature struggles like that it’s a little bit daunting because of all the success, but I just feel it’s a little bit of what hitters go through. They go through streaks. It’s great while you’re in a good streak, and it’s never any fun when you’re going through a tough streak. But he’s going to grind it out. That’s what he’s going to do, and he’s going to figure it out.”
Despite the Hall-of-Fame career, it’s incredibly easy to doubt Ichiro. He’s 39 years old, and most of his past two seasons have been pretty bad, so when he goes through a significant slump, it’s perfectly logical to wonder if he’s finished. I, myself, was wondering that very thing a little more than a week ago when it was easy to forget that Ichiro was hitting .282/.328/.391 as recently as May 10.
Ichiro’s season has been unusual. He was awful for about three weeks. Then he was really good for about three weeks. Then he was unthinkable bad for about two weeks. And now he’s been good again for a week. Small sample sizes are always tricky, and Ichiro’s age and recent numbers are cause for concern, but right field seems to be his again.
“When you look at his skill set, I’m not sure too many people have that hand-eye coordination that he possesses,” Girardi said. “Which I think has really made him a really great hitter. And hand-eye coordination, does it change as you get older? I don’t necessarily think it changes. It might slow down a little bit, but I don’t know if there’s a real big change in it.”
• Kevin Youkilis will play third base tomorrow. Girardi said he’s used Youkilis as DH these two games because David Adams has never really done it. Girardi said the decision has nothing to do with any lingering concern about Youkilis’s back.
• Girardi on Youkilis and the back injury: “I think hitting can be just as irritating because of the rotation. I think with backs, a lot of times you worry about the rotation more than anything. From my experience, I’ve done it a lot of different ways, and in ways you don’t even expect to do it, so I don’t necessarily think so playing defense.”
• By the way, when asked whether this would be the regular lineup against lefties, Girardi quickly said this: “It could be. At some point I’d like to give Tex a DH day, or you could give Robbie possibly a DH day against a left-hander and put Youk at third and Adams at second.” Just another example of the Yankees talking like they have no plans of optioning Adams to Triple-A on Monday.
• No real update on Eduardo Nunez, who still hasn’t resumed baseball drills since his latest setback. “I have not gotten any report on what he’s done since they shut him down, so I think they’re just trying to get that to calm down and get him back out there,” Girardi said.
• Also no real update on Alex Rodriguez. “There’s not any live BP yet, or anything of that nature, but he’s just going through his progression,” Girardi said. “He has not moved a lot on the ground balls, and that’s a step that he’s going to have to make. He’s going to have to make the step of — he jogs — but running more full speed so he can do the bases, and he hasn’t made that yet. … The progression has been what they designed. His progression is fairly long, so I don’t necessarily check it every day, but he has not had any setbacks.”
• Girardi said he hasn’t heard when Michael Pineda will make his next start after the cracked fingernail situation.
Associated Press photos