Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Revitalized Ichiro Earns Another Postseason Shot

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Revitalized Ichiro Earns Another Postseason Shot

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - A decade's worth of empty Octobers has ended for Ichiro Suzuki.

"What I've realized here with the Yankees is, that's the starting point," Suzuki said through his interpreter as he prepared to play in his first postseason series since 2001 with Seattle. "So it's a completely different atmosphere."

Suzuki was batting .261 with a .288 on-base percentage when he was traded from the Mariners to the Yankees on July 23. Revitalized by a pennant race, the 10-time All-Star outfielder has become a fixture for manager Joe Girardi.

"He got so hot that it was almost impossible to take him out of the lineup," Girardi said of Suzuki, 38, who was to be benched against certain lefties. Now, "I don't anticipate us sitting him."

As a Yankee, Suzuki batted .322, matching his lifetime average, in 227 at-bats.

And in the twilight of a remarkable career that has spanned two nations, Suzuki showed off two other youthful hallmarks, his defense and speed (14 steals).

"He's completely changed our team. I really feel that way," Alex Rodriguez said, adding that Suzuki "took the challenge" of coming to the Yankees to win a title - the one thing missing from a Hall of Fame resume. "He's been an enormous addition for us."

Even if this season ends with a parade through the Canyon of Heroes, Suzuki said there are more challenges ahead. He wants to play beyond this year, although Brett Gardner's presence complicates a return to pinstripes.

He'd like to join a club that needs him, just like the Yankees needed him once Gardner underwent elbow surgery.

"Maybe if I ever get fat, maybe I'll quit," Suzuki with a smile as he went through his elaborate stretching exercises on the clubhouse floor.

Teammates have kidded Suzuki about this odd regimen, as well as his youthful taste in clothes -- including jeans rolled up at the calf and florescent belts. But after all those seasons in Seattle, Suzuki said he fit in right away in the Bronx. …

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