Ichiro sparkles on 'D,' makes All-Star history
Mariners right fielder sets record for starts as leadoff hitter
ANAHEIM -- The first half of the 2010 season has been a difficult one for the Seattle Mariners. One of the bright spots, as usual, has been the play of Ichiro Suzuki. And for one night, Mariners fans were able to wipe away the first half and watch their All-Star in action.
While he didn't stand out quite like he did in 2007, when he took home MVP honors, Ichiro did start in right field for his 10th straight All-Star appearance. He made his ninth start as the American League's leadoff hitter, breaking the record he previously shared with Rod Carew (AL, eight times) and Willie Mays (National League, eight times). He went 0-for-2, popping out to shortstop Hanley Ramirez against NL starter Ubaldo Jimenez to lead off the bottom of the first. He struck out against Josh Johnson in the third inning before making way for Torii Hunter in the top of the fourth inning.
Ichiro did make his presence felt with his glove in the AL's 3-1 loss to the NL on Tuesday. With two outs in the top of the first inning, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols lined a shot toward right field. The still-nimble Ichiro ranged to his right before leaping to snare the drive to end the inning.
"It felt great, obviously, when you make a play like that," Ichiro said through a translator. "It was different, because usually when you make that kind of a catch here at Angel Stadium, all the fans go, 'Boo' and say bad stuff to you, but today, in the All-Star Game, they were all happy when I made that catch. It was totally something different and it felt great."
Ichiro knew going in that he'd get just the two at-bats this year, noting that's the way All-Star Games go. With his 0-for-2 on Tuesday, he's now hitting .308 (8-for-26) in his 10 All-Star Games. He hasn't been nearly as successful, he claims, in his pregame speeches to the AL team.
It's not the kind of spotlight Ichiro seeks. Rather, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz volunteers him for the pep talk. When the two have been on the AL roster together, Big Papi has pressed him into service.
"It's actually a little embarrassing, because we've been doing this for a long time now," Ichiro said. "It's time to turn the page. That said, Big Papi is always the one who stirs things up and he's the one who makes me do stuff like that. In a different way, I kind of wish he won't be on the team, but at the same time, I'm good friends with him."
How did this year's talk go? It was the one answer Ichiro provided in English.
On a scale of one to 10?
"Everything that I've done here so far, has not been that great," Ichiro said, back with the translator. "They're below that. They're all minus. "
Ichiro is hoping to turn what was a fairly negative first half for the Mariners into more of a positive. He won't have to go far to get started. The Mariners open their second half here in Anaheim on Thursday. Not one to like time off, Ichiro was hoping to get some work in on Wednesday, but fears there might be a scheduling conflict.
"I'm actually trying to find a way to work out," he said. "Unfortunately, these guys are working out tomorrow, so we can't use the field, but we're trying to find a way to work out."
There is one possible solution. With AL All-Star jersey and cap in hand, he could fit right in to the Angels' plans for the day.
"It depends on them, not me," Ichiro said. "I have my red jersey, my red hat, so I could make it happen if they allow me to."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.