With all of the attention this off-season being on Derek Jeter's retirement and free agent signings, New York Yankee Ichiro Suzuki has quietly been preparing for his 14th season in the majors. Almost a forgotten man, Ichiro 40, has compiled an astounding 4,020 hits between his storied Major League and Japanese League careers. He currently sits at 2,742 hits and is closing in on the prolific milestone of 3,000 hits.
The question for the 10 time all star is, will he play enough to get there? Suzuki is in the the final year of a two year, $13 million deal with the Yanks. With the signings of Jacoby Ellsburry and Carlos Beltran, the writing might be on the wall for the two-time AL Batting Champ. At this point it doesn't look as if the Yanks will re-sign him when his deal expires at the end of this season. Ichiro, who is the Major League hit king with 262, probably won't see enough time as a reserve outfielder this season to chase 3,000. Suzuki will most likely play in a back up up role in the outfield and will look to get at bats at DH. That might be tough with veteran Alfonso Soriano slotted ahead of him in the DH spot. Suzuki is only 258 hits shy of 3,000 and collected over 200 hits each season in his first 10 years with the Seattle Mariners. Of course, those days are over as he only collected 136 hits last season, in the Bronx. Suzuki isn't concerned about his playing time this season with the Yankees:
This is a place where the greatest players gather, so I'm really excited to play with those guy's. I'm going to have to find a place for myself, but I've worked hard this off-season on a lot of things, hopefully those things will come together.
The Yanks could decide to trade Suzuki before the season starts and a move out of New York could eventually get him a new deal and the playing time needed to reach 3,000 hits. When asked about a potential trade out of New York, Ichiro replied "you never know". Ichiro said that he feels comfortable in pinstripes and wasn't upset by the Yankees off-season signings. Suzuki joked, "I just kinda feel like, my reaction was, oops."
As far as him reaching 3,000 hits, it isn't something that he's really been thinking about. Suzuki admitted, that at this point he is taking things season to season and that he is focused on this year. "Obviously you have goals, but you can't really make a long- term goal when you're at this stage," Suzuki said. With his Yankee future being questioned, it's hard to say when and if he will reach 3,000 hits. If he does, it will be another great accomplishment for the 2001 AL MVP. Ichiro came to the Yankees in 2012 and has fit in well with the Bombers. He said that he was really shocked when he heard about Derek Jeter's decision to retire at the end of the 2014 season. "I didn't want to believe it."
Suzuki broke in to the Majors with the Seattle Mariners in 2001. In his first season, he hit .350 with 56 stolen bases and was named American League Rookie of the Year. Suzuki has hit .350 or better four times and has compiled 472 career stolen bases. And that is after a legendary career in Japan's Pacific League. In nine season's with the Orix Blue Wave, Ichiro was a three time MVP and seven time All Star.
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