For the past two and a half years, Ichiro Suzuki was a fascinating player to see up close. The Yankees caught him near the end of his career, when he was no longer at the level that made him a remarkable superstar for a full decade, but even that diminished version of Ichiro was exciting, if only because he remains unique in his preparation and approach. I’ve honestly never covered a player like him, and multiple Japanese reporters who know him much better than I do have said he’s the single most interesting man they’ve ever met. The guy got to the big leagues at age 27 and still has a real shot at 3,000 hits. That’s pretty incredible. I hope he gets there. Ichiro signed with the Marlins this month. He’s projected to be a fourth outfielder, but he was supposed to be a fifth outfielder last season before getting the bulk of the Yankees’ playing time in right field. Here’s Jim Armstrong of The Associated Press writing about the next chapter for a fascinating short-term Yankee. By the way, Ichiro said he’s spent the past two years looking for the Marlins’ kind of enthusiasm.
“When I met (Miami) team executives yesterday, I felt incredible enthusiasm,” Suzuki said at a press conference on Thursday. “So I wanted to respond to their enthusiasm and I believe that is something I have been looking for the last two years.”
Suzuki’s deal includes $2.8 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $400,000 for 300 and the same amount for each additional 50 through 600.
The 41-year-old Suzuki, a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, is expected to be the team’s fourth outfielder behind Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
Suzuki is the first Japanese player to sign with the Marlins. He hit .284 and stole 15 bases for the New York Yankees last season.
Suzuki is a career .317 hitter in the majors and a two-time AL batting champion. The former AL MVP has 2,844 career hits.
In his first press conference in Japan since 2000, Suzuki was his usual quirky self, at one point turning the tables and asking a veteran reporter what was behind his line of questioning.
He told members of the press that difficult questions make him cough, and proceeded to start coughing when a reporter said that he was about to become the oldest active position player.
“That’s a scary question,” Suzuki said. “As a baseball player, I’ve come to an age that I don’t really like being at. I’m 41 but there are many people who are 25 but look like they are 41. I want to be the opposite of that and will continue working bit by bit to achieve that.”
Five Marlins executives, including president David Samson, president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings, made the 18-hour trek to Tokyo for the announcement.
“It was very important for us to be here today,” Samson said. “Because commissioner (Rob) Manfred back in New York and all of us around baseball realize the importance of MLB and baseball in Japan and we’re very proud to be here.”
Hill said the Marlins hope to get the most out of the durable Suzuki.
“We’ll use him in various ways to keep him sharp and give him as many at-bats as possible,” Hill said. “He’s in incredible shape. He doesn’t look like a 41 year old. He looks like he still has a number of years left in him.”
Associated Press photo
A few notes and links on this fairly slow Wednesday night:
• It seems Johan Santana’s comeback attempt might have already been thrown off course. According to a report out of Venezuela, Santana shut down his stint in the Venezuelan Winter League because of lingering discomfort in his shoulder. He made just one appearance. The Yankees had been vaguely linked to Santana, though there was never much evidence that they were aggressively pursuing him.
• Little surprise that the Yankees are one of the teams to have held a private workout with Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. That’s according to Baseball America. The Yankees have been routinely listed as one of the favorites to sign Moncada — that’s according to the various reporters who basically specialize in the international market — and he would almost certainly become their most highly touted prospect. Although he’s been a shortstop, Ben Badler notes that he’s likely to shift to either second base or third base eventually.
• According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins have offered Ichiro Suzuki a one-year deal worth roughly $2 million. Ichiro would play a bench role with the Marlins, but that’s probably the best he can find at this point in his career. He’s still such a fun player to watch, I’m glad Ichiro’s planning to stick around and keep playing in some capacity. Fascinating player to cover for a few years.
• Speaking of former Yankees, the Atlanta Braves have brought back Kelly Johnson on a minor league deal. The Yankees thought Johnson’s left-handed swing and defensive versatility would be a real asset last season, but Johnson struggled on offense and defense before being traded away.
• Yesterday, the Yankees announced that they traded reliever Gonzalez Germen to the Rangers for cash considerations. He was initially acquired from the Mets for cash considerations, so I assume that one’s a wash. Basically, the Yankees decided Germen was better than Preston Claiborne, then decided Chris Martin was better than Germen. Today, the Rangers designated Germen to make room on their roster for new catcher Carlos Corporan.
• This one is a few days old: According to Baseball America’s latest minor league transactions, the Yankees have signed outfielder Robert Hernandez. The 26-year-old is a former minor league pitcher who hasn’t been in affiliated ball in a while but put up solid numbers in Venezuela this winter. Total wild card that most likely won’t be anything but minor league depth, but who knows?
• Not that you were losing sleep over this, but Major League Baseball announced today that the owners and World Umpires Association have officially ratified a five-year labor agreement covering the 2015-2019 seasons.
• According to Sports Business Daily, the YES Network is close to a deal that would move some Yankees game broadcasts back to WPIX. Basically, the over-the-air broadcasts would be in Channel 11 instead of Channel 9.
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “Let me play the game first” • 09.25.14
Derek Jeter showed up as his locker briefly. He disappeared through the back door of the clubhouse and returned a few minutes later. It wasn’t particularly unusual — pretty typical pregame back-and-forth, really — except this is his last game at Yankee Stadium, and so there was a playoff-sized packed of media gathered around his locker waiting for Jeter to say … anything, really.
“Afterwards,” Jeter said. “It’s tough for me to start getting emotional and sentimental before I’ve got to play. So let me play the game first. I’ll let you know how I felt about it afterwards.”
Jeter said he’s made no decisions about playing this weekend in Boston. Said he wasn’t sure how many tickets he’d left for friends and family. He said he was thinking mostly about the weather and hoping things would clear up long enough to get the game in.
“I think it’s going to be extremely special,” Joe Girardi said. “Something that obviously he’ll be able to carry with him the rest of his life. I think it’s going to be something that all of us will remember, that we were here tonight; similar to Mo’s last night. That we were at the Stadium the night he played his last game.”
As for a plan, Girardi said he was simply hoping something would occur to him in the moment. If he has a plot in mind — a mid-inning substitution or anything like that — he hasn’t revealed it just yet. But the game means nothing for the Yankees, so Girardi can basically handle Jeter’s final moments however he’d like.
“I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had to play too many games like this in my career,” Jeter said. “But it is what it is. Our team was not good enough, so we’re out of playoff contention. It’s always difficult. You set your goals and you try to reach something and that goal was unattainable.”
That much Jeter knew when he got to the ballpark today. At some point tonight, the plan is for him find out what it’s like to play one last game at Yankee Stadium.
“My feelings are, I hope the rain stops,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it.”
• There’s a solid chance Jeter’s not the only one playing his final game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Hiroki Kuroda has the start, and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll also retire at the end of this season. “No he has not (announced his plans),” Girardi said. “Obviously that’s something he’ll sit down after the season and make the decision. He’s not 29 either, so I’m not sure.”
• Might not be his last game at Yankee Stadium — seems he’ll probably play again next year — but this is almost certainly Ichiro Suzuki’s final game at Yankee Stadium as a member of the Yankees. I actually think it would be cool if Girardi pulled him from the game for a standing ovation at some point. Maybe take out Ichiro with two outs in the eighth and Jeter with two outs in the ninth?
• Thought the Yankees might use these meaningless games to give Bryan Mitchell one more start, but Larry Rothschild said it’s been so long since his last start, that it wouldn’t really be fair to ask Mitchell to try to start again tomorrow or Sunday. The plan is to stick with Capuano, Tanaka and Pineda for the three games in Boston.
• Girardi on the plans for Jeter this weekend: “I don’t have them yet. I’m waiting to meet with him. He’ll be in, I’m sure, fairly shortly. I talked to him (yesterday). Let’s meet today and decide. Tell me what you want to do. Then, when he does, I’ll let him share it. I probably won’t.”
• Here’s Jeter on what he was feeling during Mariano Rivera’s final game at Yankee Stadium: “I was proud of him. I was happy that I was here. It’s a little different because you don’t know the situation. Mo was getting a massage until 9:30, 9:45, then he goes out there. You have a pretty good idea of when he’s going to come in. I just wanted to be here for him. That’s pretty much it. I was happy for him, I was proud of him that his career was coming to an end. I was just happy to be here for him.”
• Girardi was asked whether he plans to keep anything from tonight’s game. “My lineup cards I keep all the time anyway,” he said. “That’s just what I do because I think it tells a story during the course of a season. Maybe I’ll keep one ball, but it’s the memories more than the mementos that I really want to hold onto. When I think about my time with Derek Jeter, the things he did as a young player, the things he did middle age and as an older player, just being around him. Remembering the 3,000th hit was really special. Those types of things. I remember celebrating in the clubhouse with him. Those are the things that I’m going to remember.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees postgame: From 10 runs to no runs • 08.09.14
After winning 10-6 in the series opener Friday night, the Yankees didn’t get much done again with bats their hands. They managed five hits and struck out 15 times against four pitchers in this 3-0 win by Cleveland, snapping their three-game winning streak.
Who was to blame?
Joe Girardi mostley blamed Corey Kluber. The right-hander gave up four of the hits and struck out 10 in six innings to improve to 13-6, including 7-1 in his last nine starts. This stretch comes with a 1.19 ERA. Girardi ranks him in the top five in the league.
“He’s got really good stuff,” Girardi said. “He’s got an outstanding slider that he uses against righties and lefties.”
“He’s nasty, man,” Derek Jeter said.
“Every time he toes the rubber, it’s a win,” Cody Allen said after picking up his 15th save.
The timely hitting sure wasn’t there. The Yankees finished 0 for 9 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position. This was the fourth time they were shut out this season.
But they were also missing Brian McCann for the first of at least six games since he’s now on the 7-day concussion DL.
“It’s not what you want, but what we felt was necessary to do to protect him,” Girardi said.
They were also missing Mark Teixeira for the third straight game.
“He felt better,” Girardi said. “It’s possible tomorrow he’s a player for us. We’ll see.”
In the end, they wasted yet another outstanding start by Brandon McCarthy. He had to shake off the pain and numbness from a third-inning liner by Michael Brantley that got his right foot.
“It was Paul O’Neill Day,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t Leave the Game Early Day.”
McCarthy allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3. He struck eight and walked none. This was his first loss in six starts since coming over from Arizona. He’s 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA. X-rays were negative on his foot.
Jeter had a memorable day, picking up hit No. 3,431, passing Honus Wagner for sole possession of sixth on the all-time list. The Captain did it with an infield hit in the sixth and called it a “wow” moment.
Ichiro Suzuki picked up hit No. 2,811, passing George Sisler for sole possession of 48th on the all-time list.
Here’s my Lohud.com story on McCarthy’s bad history with comebackers and what happened today. And here’s my Yankees notebook on Paul O’Neill getting his plaque, Michael Pineda’s positive feelings and some other items.
Photo by The Associated Press.
The Yankees — and Ichiro Suzuki — just own Mark Buehrle. Actually the Yankees own the Blue Jays here at Yankee Stadium.
This 6-4 win marked their 17th straight against the Jays in the Bronx, the fourth-longest home winning streak by one team against another since divisional play began in 1969. The Yankees have 26 of the last 28 here against Toronto since May 24, 2011.
And then there’s Buehrle. The 35-year-old lefty is 0-10 with a 7.34 ERA in his last 15 starts against the Yankees. He’s 1-12 overall in 19 starts against them. He hasn’t beaten them since April 10, 2004, and that was at the old Yankee Stadium.
Asked the reason for the dominance, Joe Girardi said, “It’s hard to say. He’s a really good pitcher.”
Ichiro, who’s now 25 for 60 lifetime vs. Buehrle, hit a three-run shot in the third to snap his 294 at-bat homerless streak dating to last August 30. Derek Jeter had been on his case with some friendly teasing.
“During batting practice, he always tells me, ‘Can’t leave. Can’t leave,’ which means the ball doesn’t leave the ballpark,” Ichiro said through his interpreter.
“For a Japanese person, it’s hard to hear the ‘t’ at the end. I think he said, ‘Can leave,’ ” Ichiro added jokingly.
Hiroki Kuroda struggled some, but he earned the win, allowing four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3. Girardi said he had trouble with command of his sinker.
“He just fought all night,” Girardi said.
Chase Headley went 3 for 4, so he’s at .429 (6 for 14) after four games with his new team.
Mark Teixeira didn’t do any baseball activity, according to Girardi, just ran and did rotational exercises. Girardi said he’s expected to do the same Saturday, and that it wasn’t “probably realistic” that Teixeira could return to the lineup Sunday.
The Yankees are 7-1 since the break, having won four in a row. Their last five wins have been of the comeback variety. They own the second wild card at the moment.
“It beats the alternative,” Girardi said. “But it really doesn’t mean a whole lot with 60 games to go.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
“This next week I’ll get some of the other guys into games here to keep everyone going,” Girardi said. “But you like to try to run the same lineup out there as much as you can.”
Will there come a day when Carlos Beltran will be in the lineup as the right fielder again instead of as the DH? He would need to start throwing again first.
“We’ve talked about that,” Girardi said. “That could probably start happening pretty soon here.”
With Beltran’s bone spur in the right elbow and the struggles and departure of Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki has taken on a larger role in right. This will be the 40-year-old’s 49th start out there. Ichiro is batting. 286 with no homers and 11 RBI in 83 games. He’s 0 for his last 16.
“He’s had a pretty decent year for us,” Girardi said. “He’s played a lot as of late. I know that I have to give him a day off every once in a while to keep him fresh. Even though he won’t say that, I think it’s important that that happens. But he’s been an everyday player for us.”
Michael Pineda has thrown one live batting practice session and Girardi thinks he will do that again.
“And then you might start seeing him, in a sense, throw a couple of innings, three innings, that sort of thing, depending on how that goes,” Girardi said.
“Sometimes we like to do sim games because it’s easier to build them up. It’s more controlled.”
This has been substandard home team this year. After beating the Reds in the first two games of this series, the Yankees are still only 20-23 at home.
“It’s going to take everyone in that clubhouse for us to play better at home,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press
Yankees postgame: Sabathia frustrated • 04.12.14
CC Sabathia had a lot of reasons to be frustrated. He pitched a good game overall, seven innings — four runs, six hits, nine Ks, two walks — but he pitched a bad sixth inning, giving up all four of the runs and four of the hits. He felt he let his emotions get the best of him in this 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, frustrating him the most. You can see his reaction above as he walked off the mound following the third out in the sixth.
The Yankees had a 1-0 lead going into the sixth and Sabathia had a one-hit shutout. Then he gave up a leadoff homer to Jonny Gomes. OK, it happens.
One out later, he gave up a checked-swing infield hit to Big Papi Ortiz. OK, that doesn’t usually happen. It made Sabathia angry. He lost his focus and he lost the game.
“Usually I’m able to stay even keel and not let that get to me, not let that frustrate me,” Sabathia said. “Next thing I know, it’s 3-0 on Napoli before I even calmed down. That’s something that I did when I was in my 20s and younger. I have to get better.”
Mike Napoli singled, and Grady Sizemore, Sabathia’s old friend from Cleveland, launched a slider for a three-run homer to right for the 4-1 lead.
“I was just frustrated,” Sabathia said. “I kind of rushed through and left the pitch hanging.”
So Sabathia is 1-2 with a 6.63 ERA after three starts.
Joe Girardi said: “He hasn’t thrown that poorly.”
Girardi also said: “I think it’s fair to say any time a guy has less velocity, there’s less margin for error.”
Sabathia said he just hasn’t put a full game together.
“I’m light years ahead of where I was last year,” Sabathia said. “I still have some work to do.”
Ichiro Suzuki went 2 for 4, so he has hit safely in all four of his starts, going 8 for 17. That’s .471.
Game 3 of this four-game series is scheduled for 1:05 Saturday. The matchup is Hiroki Kuroda vs. John Lackey.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees postgame/pregame: Ichiro heating up • 06.19.13
“He’s been playing extremely well for us,” Joe Girardi said after Suzuki lifted his average to .274, having gone 10 for 22 over his last four games. “He has the ability to get really, really hot.”
Suzuki served a soft two-run single into left in the seventh, the decisive hit since it gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead.
“He puts it in the perfect spot,” Lyle Overbay said. “It’s an art.”
So is this the start of an extended hot streak for Suzuki?
“I have no idea,” Suzuki said through his interpreter. “Maybe you can ask a fortune teller or somebody in New York can tell you.”
Hiroki Kuroda allowed two runs and eight hits over 6 2/3 to snap a three-game losing streak, doing it against his old team. He said through his interpreter that he enjoyed catching up with Clayton Kershaw yesterday.
“Once the game started, I didn’t really focus too much on who I was facing,” Kuroda said. “I was trying … to contribute for the win.”
The Yankees got their first look at what all the fuss is about, Yasiel Puig. The L.A. rookie got thrown out trying to stretch one single into a double, but did make it the next time he tried. Mariano Rivera got him looking to end the game.
“He’s an aggressive player,” Girardi said. “He has tools.”
Phil Hughes and Chris Capuano will be the pitching matchup in the second game. Girardi said before the first game that Zoilo Almonte would probably get to start in the night game, but Suzuki is starting in left and Thomas Neal is in right. Vernon Wells is the DH. He went 0 for 4 in the opener, leaving him in a 9-for-84 slide.
“He’ll figure it out,” Girardi said.
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Photo by The Associated Press.
Curtis Granderson is back in pinstripes after five Triple-A rehab games. He will wear padding in tonight’s return vs. Seattle — on his right elbow, his twice broken right hand and, of course, the right forearm that was broken during the first at-bat of his first exhibition game. More interesting than the hitting stuff is the fielding stuff. Granderson is in left for this game.
“I’m ready to play,” Granderson said. “It doesn’t matter where it happens to be. I’ve said that before. Joe (Girardi) knew that before. So did (Rob) Thomson. I got a chance to work in right, center and left in the minor leagues. So I’m ready as I can for that. Obviously Yankee Stadium and all the big-league stadiums are going to be another challenge as well. But we go out there there today and take the first step.
“The main thing I’ve got to do is just go out there and get balls off the bat. You can’t mirror game-like swings and game-like intensity until you’re actually out there in it. I’ll get a chance to talk to Vernon Wells, who has been playing exceptionally out there. I’ll get a chance to talk to Brett Gardner, who has played a lot out there.”
Girardi didn’t spell out how he was going to use his four outfielders, but you would think that Granderson would mostly play left and move to center or right when Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki has a day off. He could also get some DH at-bats, especially if Travis Hafner is down for a while. Yes, another injury. The oft-injured Hafner’s right shoulder has been sore, so he’s going to get an MRI. He’s expected to miss at least a couple of games. Vernon Wells had been playing left, but he’s the DH tonight. He’s also still a good outfielder, fine in left. Ichiro can play right or left (or even center), but he has an arm more suited for right.
“I don’t think it hurts to give a guy a day off here and there, spread it around a little bit,” Girardi said. “Grandy, you can’t expect him to go seven, eight days in a row right out of the chute. I think that would be unfair to him. Get him kind of back into playing every day. But they’re all going to play a lot. That’s the bottom line.”
Girardi said Hafner’s shoulder has “been bothering him for a little bit. He’s managed it and he’s played through it. He’s been fairly productive for us. But we’re just taking some precautionary things to see where he’s at and make sure we’re not missing anything.”
Girardi wouldn’t comment on talk that third baseman David Adams will be called up from Triple-A tomorrow when he’s eligible (after being released at the end of spring training).
Yankees leave ample April behind • 05.01.13
Welcome to May. The Yankees finished April at 16-10 after Tuesday night’s 7-4 win over Houston. They also finished with nine players on the disabled list.
In other words, they have no complaints with the record after the first month. No one should, considering all the injuries.
“I think our guys did a very good job, especially with the start we had, 1-4,” Joe Girardi said.
The pitching has been good. The offense has done just enough. The homer total has been running first in the AL. And the new guys have pitched in well.
“They brought in really good dudes, a lot of veteran guys, good character guys,” said one of the new guys, Travis Hafner. “The clubhouse has been great. Everyone gets along well.”
One of the old guys has begun to heat up. Ichiro Suzuki is batting .407 over his last seven games.
But the Yankees could use Eduardo Nunez to start hitting consistently, too.
“It would be great because he’s done a wonderful job defensively the first month for us, just great,” Girardi said.
The shortstop has his first three-hit game Tuesday night since April 4. He had three hits over his previous six games combined. Two of his three hits in the win over Houston were doubles, one more extra-base hit than he had the entire season. He raised his average from .169 to .203.
“We really believe that this kid is going to hit,” Girardi said. “To get him going, with the speed that he has, creates problems for the defense, for the pitchers, it would help us a lot.”
Here’s the link to my story on the April finale and the contributions by Hiroki Kuroda and Hafner so far. Also, here’s a link to my Yankees notebook with items on the mistake made by playing Kevin Youkilis Saturday and the lack of depth in the infield, plus on new rookie infielder Corban Joseph and some injury updates. And finally here’s a link to my feature story of the day. It’s on new lefty Vidal Nuno and his path from the independent Frontier League to the Bronx. Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back with you Sunday.