Results tagged ‘ Safeco Field ’
The scene changed for Ichiro Suzuki Friday night at Yankee Stadium. For the first time he wore a home uniform in his major-league career that did not have ‘Mariners’ across the breast. The pinstripes and inter-locking ‘NY’ of the Yankees seemed to fit him perfectly.
Across the way was the team that is the chief rival of the Yankees managed by the first American to sign Ichiro’s praises. It was during the 2000 World Series that Bobby Valentine, then manager of the Mets, spoke glowingly of Suzuki from the skipper’s time in Japan. Valentine at the time tried to convince the Mets to get in the bidding for Ichiro, but the front office disagreed. Suzuki ended up in Seattle, which turned out to be a very good landing place for him.
Suzuki was embraced by his manager, Lou Piniella, and a city with a sizeable Asian population. Baseball fans throughout North America came to appreciate the fleet-footed outfielder with the penchant for spraying line drives and beating out infield grounders that he totaled more than 200 hits a season for 10 consecutive years.
Valentine recalled before Friday night’s opener of the Yankees-Red Sox series that in his days in the Japanese Pacific League Ichiro’s speed was such that he was a threat to beat out ground balls to the first baseman for hits.
“He was really, really fast,” Valentine said.
That was a long time, however. The Ichiro Suzuki of today is 38 years old. He is still a threat with his speed but not as great as in previous years. It also remains to be seen how he will handle the spotlight on a daily basis. The Mariners team he broke in with, in 2001, won 116 games and was a postseason team that lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
The Mariners have not been back to the playoffs since. Except for the All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2007 when he electrified a national television audience with an inside the park home run and two other hits to earn Most Valuable Player honors, Suzuki has not been on the national stage all that much. You don’t see the Mariners on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball as often as we once did when Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez were still in Seattle.
Ichiro cannot escape the spotlight now. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East and as such a major contender for a possible berth in the World Series. They are hoping Suzuki will be a big part of that quest.
“I’m confident New York is not going to be a big thing for him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This guy has been there before. He is going to be on nationally televised games a lot.”
It all starts Friday night with the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call, which is something he knows about, even from Seattle. It seems that Yankees fans that came to see them play at Safeco Field did their version of the roll call before those games. Suzuki is bound to appreciate the Stadium version a lot better.
The Yankees made sure they would hot not have future problems with Ichiro Suzuki by getting the 10-time All-Star to agree to certain conditions before they would agree to a trade from the Mariners.
Suzuki had earned plenty of privileges in Seattle as the franchise’s most dynamic player. But at age 38, Ichiro is not the multi-faceted threat he had been over the first 10 years with the M’s. He had to agree to the Yankees’ plans to use primarily in left field instead of right field, to bat in the lower third of the order rather than the upper third and to accept being benched against some left-handed pitchers.
There was surely a time when Suzuki would not have acquiesced. A few years ago, he balked at being moved from leadoff to third in the order. But his desire to leave a last-place team and join a postseason contender motivated Ichiro to accept the Yankees’ conditions.
Suzuki started in right field Tuesday night at Safeco Field for the second consecutive game as Nick Swisher rested a sore left hip flexor. Ichiro was again in the 8-hole in the order. He got his first extra-base hit for the Yankees, a leadoff double in the fifth inning off Felix Hernandez, but was stranded there as the Bombers failed to advance him.
Upon the Yankees return home this weekend against the Red Sox, Suzuki can be expected to move over to left field provided Swisher is ready to return to the lineup. The idea of playing Ichiro in left field at Yankee Stadium makes sense because there is far more ground there to cover, and he is still a wide-ranging fly catcher.
Ichiro Suzuki got right into the swing of things for the Yankees Monday night. Accorded a standing ovation from grateful Mariners fans when he came to bat for the first time as a Yankee in the second inning at Safeco Field, Ichiro lashed a single to center field. Soon after that, he stole second base.
Speed has been an element largely lacking in the Yankees’ offense since mid April when Brett Gardner went on the disabled list because of a wrist injury. Gardner being lost for the rest of the season following surgery prompted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to make the move for Ichiro. If he proves to have plenty of life left in those 38-year-old legs, Suzuki can be a major addition to the Yankees.
Ichiro wore uniform No. 51 for 12 seasons with the Mariners but recognized that the number is identified strongly with Bernie Williams on the Yankees. The number is not retired, but it has not been given to another player since Williams departed after the 2006 season. Suzuki has chosen to wear No. 31 with the Yankees. Probably the former Yankee mostly associated with that number is Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
This is the second time a former Mariners player who wore No. 51 in Seattle could not get the number after being traded to the Yankees. The other was pitcher Randy Johnson. Williams was still playing for the Yankees when the Big Unit pitched for them in 2005 and ’06 and had to wear No. 41 instead.
With Ichiro joining Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are the first team to have three players with more than 2,500 hits since 1928 when the Philadelphia Athletics had Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. The year before that, the A’s had Collins, Cobb and Zack Wheat.
Despite all the attention focused on Suzuki Monday night, it was another Japanese-born Yankee who grabbed the spotlight. Hiroki Kuroda tamed the Mariners on one run, three hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings to win his fourth straight decision. The righthander over his past 11 starts is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 76 innings to lower his season ERA from 4.56 to 3.34.
The Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Mariners and Kevin Millwood ended the four-game losing streak from Oakland. The Yanks were more like themselves with 11 hits, including A-Rod’s 15th home run of the season and career No. 644. Rodriguez also doubled. Mark Teixeira had two doubles and a single and drove in a run. The other runs were driven home by Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones.
Sheesh! I cannot leave this team for a minute. I was in Cooperstown, N.Y., the past four days for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, and the Yankees end up losing each day to the Athletics by one run. What a stunner.
Okay, let’s settle down. Not even the Yankees could have stayed as sizzling as they have been in recent weeks. Credit Oakland with some first-rate pitching and defense against the Yankees, who continue to have trouble hitting with runners in scoring position that caught up with them against the A’s.
Now it is off to Seattle where they will welcome a new teammate. Ichiro Suzuki will walk from the home clubhouse to the visitors’ quarters at Safeco Field. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman pulled off the deal for one of the game’s hitting machines at the cost of only two 25-year-old pitchers, D. J. Mitchell and Danny Farquar.
With Brett Gardner out for the remainder of the season and Nick Swisher out of the lineup in recent days with a strained left hip flexor, the Yankees were in need of outfield help. They have designated DeWayne Wise for assignment to make room for Ichiro, who burst on the American scene in 2001 by winning both the American League Most Valuable Player and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards, a feat accomplished by only one other player, Red Sox center fielder Fred Lynn in 1975.
The question of the day, naturally, is how much does Ichiro have left at the age of 38? He was a magnificent player in his first 10 seasons in the majors as the first Japanese-born position player. He piled up one 200-plus hit season after another. That streak ended last year when he fell under .300 (.272) and 200 hits (184) for the first time. In 95 games and 402 at-bats this year, Ichiro has 105 hits and is batting .261.
The hope, of course, is that Suzuki will be rejuvenated by getting onto to a contender and that he will be helped by making hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium his home over pitcher-friendly Safeco.
Howard Lincoln, the Mariners’ chief executive officer, said late Monday afternoon that Suzuki had recently requested a trade.
“On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he has had here in Seattle,” Armstrong said in a statement. “Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his long time agent, Tony Attanasio, approached [team president] Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him. Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future. He felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop.
“Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I know that I speak for all of Ichiro’s fans, here in the Pacific Northwest, around this country and also throughout Japan, in wishing him and his wife Yumiko the very best as he continues his baseball career with the Yankees.”
Suzuki is a .322 career hitter in the U.S. with 2,533 hits, including 295 doubles, 79 triples and 99 home runs. He has scored 1,176 runs and driven in 633. Ichiro has a .366 career on-base average with 513 walks, plus 438 stolen bases. Since his American debut 11 years ago, he has 330 more hits than any player.
Ichiro will become the sixth Japan-born player in Yankees franchise history, joining Hideki Irabu (1997-99), Hideki Matsui (2003-09), Kei Igawa (2007-08), Hiroki Kuroda (2012) and Ryota Igarashi (2012).
Suzuki has won two AL batting titles (.350 in 2001, .372 in 2004) and has led or tied for the major-league lead in hits seven times (2001, ’04, ‘06-10), which is tied with Ty Cobb and Pete Rose for the most such seasons. Ichiro is the only player to do it in five consecutive years. He finished first or second in his every season from 2001 to 2010 and placed ninth in 2011.
In 2004, Suzuki totaled 262 hits to set the all-time modern era (since 1900) single-season hits record. Along with his 242 hits in 2001 and 238 hits in 2007, Ichiro owns three of the top 20 single-season hits totals in major-league history. He had at least 200 hits in 10 straight seasons from 2001 through 2010, tying Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a major-league career.
Suzuki’s 2,533 career hits in the States are the most by any player through his first 12 seasons. At the conclusion of all but one of his 12 seasons, Ichiro has held the distinction of having more hits to start a career than any other major leaguer. The lone exception occurred after his third season, when only Lloyd Waner (678) had more hits than Suzuki’s 662 (according to data at http://www.baseball-reference.com).
Ichiro has made 1,790 starts as an outfielder (1,525 in right field and 265 in center field) and has a career fielding percentage of .992 with just 33 errors in 4,181 total chances. He has won 10 Gold Gloves for fielding. The Yankees now have two of the six outfielders to have won 10 or more Gold Gloves. The other is 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones. Willie Mays and Robertp Clemente won 12 each, and Al Kaline and Junior Griffey 10 apiece.
Prior to playing in the majors, Suzuki spent nine seasons (1992-2000) with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League was named the league’s MVP three times (1994-96). He hit .353 and led the Pacific League in batting average for seven straight years (1994-2000).
It is as impressive a resume as a player can have. The question remains, how much is left in that tank? We shall find out.
During a conference call this week to talk about the All-Star Game voting for the July 10 event at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and former National League Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz commented on Derek Jeter’s runaway lead for the American League shortstop starting berth.
Ripken will be featured with former Yankees pitcher David Wells and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on TBS’ All-Star Game Selection show at 1 p.m. Sunday when the All-Star squads will be announced. Smoltz will team with Brian Anderson on TBS’ coverage of that day’s game between the Yankees and White Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter, who turned 38 this week, has received more than four million votes going into the All-Star balloting, which ends at midnight, topped only by the leading total of Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton. Ripken was 40 when he made his last All-Star Game appearance in his final season of 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle where he homered and was named Most Valuable Player.
“When you get up in age, you’re scrutinized at a higher level,” Ripken said. “You can’t be [an All-Star] just on reputation. You have to go out there and still play the game. When we look at players now, you compare Derek Jeter with a younger Derek Jeter. When we start comparing players to themselves, it’s unfair. All the talk last year about [Jeter] losing a step, not being there defensively and losing some power offensively, I’m sure he internalized that and worked harder in the offseason. He’s a fantastic player and has been for a long time.”
“I’m a big believer that age is just a number and sometimes we get carried away with guys not having success later in their careers,” Smoltz said. “He plays in a great place and he knows how to play the game. The Yankees are being rewarded with a player who has a lot of pride and does not rest on his laurels with the career that he has had.”
So a relatively quiet winter for the Yankees got pretty noisy on Friday the 13th of this month when general manager Brian Cashman pulled off a trade with Seattle of rookies with enormous potential, a deal which was finalized Monday and has fans of both clubs buzzing about the 2012 season a month before the start of spring training.
This was a bold move for the Yankees, who were in need of help in their rotation but did not see much aid forthcoming among what was available in a free-agent field relatively weak in starting pitchers. Cashman always seems to have the Mariners in mind when looking for pitchers and came close to gobbling up Cliff Lee in the middle of the 2010 season only to have the Rangers scoop up the coveted lefthander, who after that season decided he really wanted to go back to Philadelphia. Cashman also keeps close watch on Felix Hernandez, should the Mariners ever decide he could become too expensive to keep.
In reigning in Michael Pineda, Cashman brought to the Bronx size and youth in one package. The cost was dear, however, and Yankees fans will likely be assessing that price throughout the 2012 season. Jesus Montero, the Yankees’ best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter, won over the fans’ affection in his brief stint with the team last year, which makes his departure difficult to accept.
Of course, you have to give up quality to get quality, but Pineda should realize from the start that he will be scrutinized closely this season by fans who saw in Montero perhaps a second coming of Mike Piazza, a catcher with the ability to hit for average and power to all fields. Just as was the case with Piazza, defense was a sore point for Montero, whom the Yankees used mostly as a designated hitter after his late August callup.
Had Montero stayed with the Yankees, he would have likely continued to be a DH rather than behind the plate where the team is quite pleased with Russell Martin. A possible move to first base was out of the question with the productive and durable Mark Teixeira stationed there. In short, the Yankees did not really have a spot for Montero since they would prefer the DH role as a rotating half-day’s work for their aging veterans.
Besides, the Yankees’ greater need was pitching. Pineda, who just turned 23, is still just a pup, albeit a sizeable one at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. The Dominican righthander was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts for a Seattle club that had the worst offense in the majors last season and earned a place on the American League All-Star staff.
Despite his general success, Pineda did raise some issues last year. He slumped to 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA after the All-Star break following an excellent first half (8-6, 3.03 ERA). He certainly enjoyed the atmosphere of pitcher-friendly Safeco Field where he was 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 12 starts. Yankee Stadium’s more hitter-friendly dimensions could pose a challenge to Pineda, who did not pitch there last season. The Stadium was by all means friendly to Montero, who hit .500 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI in 9 games and 30 at-bats in the Bronx.
Pineda will also have to get used to pitching more regularly in AL East yards. He was okay (3.00 ERA) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., but not so well at Baltimore’s Camden Yards (4.50 ERA) or Toronto’s Rogers Centre (7.11 ERA) and downright awful at Boston’s Fenway Park (14.54 ERA).
There were two other pitchers involved in the deal. Hector Noesi, who did a nice job in long relief for the Yanks last year, accompanied Montero to Seattle where he will get an opportunity to make the rotation. The Yankees also got Jose Campos, 19, one of the Mariners’ top prospects, who pitched in Class A ball in 2011.
Pineda would appear to fit nicely alongside CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova at the top end of the starting pitchers’ unit with Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia in a competition for the other two spots. Spring training will tell how all this will fall out.
Yankees fans will get plenty of opportunities to see the franchise’s top catching prospects the remainder of the regular season. Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will get plenty of playing time because of injuries to the team’s other catchers.
While it was good news in New York that an MRI on Francisco Cervelli was negative, he still has a concussion, his third in three years, a malady that is treated far more seriously in baseball than it used to be. Montero and Romine will be needed in Cervelli’s backup role to the regular catcher, Russell Martin, who is also hurting with two bruised thumbs.
Romine made his first major-league start Monday night at Seattle. He is considered the better of the two rookies defensively. Montero has opened eyes with his hitting (.308, 3 home runs, 6 RBI in 26 at-bats) and is a post-season candidate as a designated hitter against left-handed pitching. Montero made his first major-league start Sunday at Anaheim and was replaced behind the plate in the seventh by Romine. It was the first time in Yankees history that two players each made his first career appearance at catcher in the same game and the first for any team since the Red Sox’ Gary Allenson and Mike O’Berry did it April 8, 1979 at Cleveland.
Nick Swisher, nursing an ailing left elbow, was back in the lineup at first base as Mark Teixeira assumed DH duties. Chris Dickerson was in Swisher’s normal spot in right field and helped the Yankees manufacture a run off Felix Hernandez in the second inning. Dickerson singled to right to send Brett Gardner, who led off with a single, to third base from where he scored on an infield out by Derek Jeter.
Crowds at Safeco Field who love to torment Alex Rodriguez for his leaving town to sign with the Rangers as a free agent after the 2000 season won’t get that chance this trip. Still bothered by a nagging left thumb injury, A-Rod is unlikely to play in this series and is hopeful to get back in the lineup by the time the Yankees move on to Toronto.
Happy anniversary, Derek Jeter! The captain broke into the major leagues 16 years ago Sunday in the same city where the Yankees were – Seattle – but a different venue – the Kingdome, a far cry from the beauteous Safeco Field.
Jeter was called up from Triple A Columbus to fill in at shortstop while regular Tony Fernandez was on the disabled list. Not wanting to put too much pressure on the former first-round draft choice who was still a month away from his 21st birthday, then manager Buck Showalter batted Jeter ninth in the order.
DJ went hitless in five at-bats and handled both his chances in the field without incident in an 8-7, 12-inning loss. He got his first major-league hit the next night, a single in the fifth inning off Mariners righthander Tim Belcher.
Jeter played in 13 games and batted .234 with three doubles, one triple and seven RBI in 47 at-bats and committed two errors before returning to Triple A. He was a September call-up and got one more hit, a double, to finish with a .250 major-league average that season.
Jeter returned to Seattle when the Yankees made their first post-season appearance in 14 years in the first American League Division Series. He was not on the roster but was part of the traveling unit and got his first look at the post-season, a portion of the big-league season with which he has become especially familiar since his 1996 AL Rookie of the Year season in 1996.
Along the way, Jeter ended up setting franchise records in hits, stolen bases and at-bats and is on the verge of becoming the first player to get 3,000 hits while wearing a Yankees uniform. Before the year is out, he is likely to replace Mickey Mantle as the club leader in games played. The kid from Kalamazoo has come a long way since May 29, 1995.
The Yankees ran into a little déjà vu Saturday night in that they scored three runs early against a tough, young pitcher but failed to maintain the lead. Giving a second chance to a pitcher of Felix Hernandez’s quality is never the way to go. Twice Yankees starter Ivan Nova gave up leads that his teammates provided him.
The Yankees scored only one run in 26 innings a year ago against Hernandez, who won the American League Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record but with a truckload of remarkable statistics. The Yanks matched their 2010 output against King Felix by the second inning on the 10th home run of the season by Robinson Cano.
One thing we know about the Mariners is that they hit the ball on the ground. The AL’s weakest offense scored all of its runs in Friday night’s 4-3 victory on infield outs. The Mariners made it five runs in a row in the bottom of the second scoring the tying run on a fielder’s choice. In fact, the first nine out Seattle made Saturday night were on infield grounders.
That should have been a good sign for Nova, who was given a 3-1 lead when Mark Teixeira connected for his 15th home run, a two-run shot, in the third. It was the sixth homer in the past nine games for Tex, who is heating up again.
An infield single by Franklin Gutierrez leading off the fourth on a play that had originally been scored an error by shortstop Derek Jeter was one of the last grounders Nova got as the Mariners began to elevate the ball. Doubles by Adam Kennedy and Miguel Olivo tied the score for Seattle, which went ahead on a one-out single by Brendan Ryan as Nova failed to last the inning.
Given new life, Hernandez settled in with three scoreless innings. Unlike Friday night, the Yankees did not stop when the score was 4-3. They got back into the game in the seventh on the unlikeliest of situations at Safeco Field, a misplayed fly ball by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Hernandez walked Jeter with two out and paid for it when Curtis Granderson followed with a triple off the right field wall. TV replays indicated that Ichiro may have gotten a poor read on Grandy’s drive or perhaps the wind was a factor, but for whatever reason the Gold Glove winner who normally comes down with the ball whenever he jumps for one couldn’t get leather on it.
Good thing, too, because it allowed the Yankees to tie the score. They couldn’t push Granderson across but took consolation in sticking Hernandez with a no-decision. That the Yankees stayed close enough to draw even was due in part to 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief by Hector Noesi, who has really been a nice addition to the bullpen and how has a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings.
All David Robertson knew about the tornado that tore through his home town of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was what he heard over the telephone from family members. He was in contact with his parents, brother and grandmother, who got through the storm safely and without major property damage.
Other people weren’t as fortunate, which Robertson saw first-hand when he and his wife, Erin, spent Thursday’s off day on a trip home before the Yankees opened a holiday weekend series Friday night at Seattle. Entire blocks with which David was familiar were scattered with debris, and many families were still forced to live in shelters while cleanup crews worked to clear areas.
“You could see the path it took,” Robertson told reporters at Safeco Field. “One side of a street would be reduced to rubble, and the other side was not even touched. Luckily, all my family and friends live on the same side of town and were very fortunate when it hit. None of them got hurt or killed. It’s really bad down there. You can’t really imagine it until you see it. I knew there were fatalities and stuff and it was terrible, but I wasn’t prepared for how far it went. Seeing my hometown destroyed, it was difficult. It was disturbing.”
The relief pitcher and his wife have established the David and Erin Robertson to raise funds to donate to relief efforts in Tuscaloosa. He will donate $100 for every strikeout he records during the season to the fund. The Robertsons are creating a web site that is under construction – http://www.highsocksforhope.com – and are encouraging fans to donate what they can to help those in dire need in the city where the University of Alabama is located. There is an address on the site already where money may be pledged.
“I wish I could go down there and use my hands and help people to rebuild, but I’m not able to,” Robertson said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to raise money to get supplies and others things to the people down there.”