SEATTLE (WFAN/AP) — Ichiro Suzuki last played in meaningful games in the final weeks of the regular season more than 10 years ago.
Now he's playing for a team that is disappointed when it doesn't win a World Series title.
"Obviously many of the Yankees here have been there, have experienced it and obviously I need to be to that level where I need to be there with them," Suzuki said through interpreter Allen Turner before Tuesday's loss. "I just got here and I'm just learning, but I need to get there. That's what I need to work on to be able to be at their level."
The 12-year veteran owns a batting average of .262 this year, which is his career low, but has hit 2-for-7 in his first two games as a Yankee.
The Yankees acquired Suzuki on Monday in part to take the role of Brett Gardner, who is out for the season with an elbow injury. Garnder had surgery on Tuesday while Suzuki made his second straight start in the road grays of the Yankees in right field.
But holding down the right field job might be temporary for Suzuki. Once Nick Swisher returns from an injury,Yankees manager Joe Girardi intends to slide Suzuki over and play him mostly in left field, with the option of using him in center or right and also potentially as the designated hitter. Girardi said he doesn't need to get Suzuki prepared to play in left and that his athleticism and experience should be enough for him to make the switch easily.
"There's always a concern and a little bit of risk involved, the ball is going to come at a little different angle and it's a little different feel, but you have to trust his experience as an outfielder is going to help him in that situation," Girardi said. "It's probably harder than most of us imagine in a sense. Saying he's a good outfielder, he'll be a good outfielder anywhere. But it's different."
For all the records he's obtained and barriers he's dismantled becoming the most successful position player from Japan, Suzuki does not have a large amount of postseason appearances on his resume.
The only time Suzuki ever reached the playoffs was the 2001 season, his first with the Mariners when he was the AL MVP and rookie of the year. The last time Suzuki was in a pennant race was during the 2003 season — his third in the majors — when Seattle won 93 games, but finished second in the AL West behind Oakland. Since then Seattle has won more than 70 games just three times: 2006, 2007 and 2009.
That lack of team success has been a criticism of Suzuki's time with the Mariners. It also makes him hungry for the opportunity to try and capture a championship with his career heading into its final stages.
"When a team is in contention the biggest thing is you're going to be really happy because you did it or you're going to be really disappointed because you were there and couldn't do it," Suzuki said. "Obviously on a team that doesn't have that chance you don't have that feeling you don't even have that possibility."
The initial surprise of Monday's trade brought a number of memorable moments as Suzuki played his first major league game in a uniform other than the Mariners. Suzuki caught the final out of the game on a fly ball off the bat of Seattle's Jesus Montero and was hoping to hold on to the ball until he saw relief pitcher Rafael Soriano standing there with his glove open.
"Yesterday being in a Yankees uniform for the first time and catching the last out of the game and I was really happy and I took that ball and I gave it to Soriano and he didn't give it to me," Suzuki said. "I was kind of disappointed. I was going to hide it in my glove but he held his glove out and had to give it to him."
Will Ichiro be able to make the adjustment to left field once Swisher returns? Sound off in the comments section below...
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