Ichiro wants to pitch for Yankees

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

One of his generation's best hitters wants to do one last thing before the end of his career: pitch.

New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would like to pitch one more time before he retires, according to a story by David Waldstein in Friday's New York Times.

Initially a pitcher in high school, Ichiro has pitched against a single batter in his professional career. It was in the 1996 Japanese All-Star game, when he was brought in to finish a 7-3 game for the Pacific League All-Stars against former Yankees outfielder and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. However, before facing a single pitch from Suzuki, Matsui was replaced by reliever Shingo Takatsu, who subsequently grounded out to end the game.

"If I hit someone," Ichiro said regarding Matsui's removal by Central League manager Katsuya Nomura, "it would have been bad." But he still thinks he could go several innings if given a chance, telling reporters he could probably throw 40-50 pitches. Though if he was asked to go over 100, he would "have to get stretched out."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was in support of the move if the opportunity comes up again during the season, as it almost did during Wednesday's 13-inning game. "I'll definitely ask him if he can do it," Girardi said after watching a video of Ichiro's performance. "It looks like he has pretty good stuff."

This is a slightly different tact from the one taken by Ichiro's former team, the Seattle Mariners. When photos of Suzuki pitching off the mound surfaced during the 2009 World Baseball Classic -- and in spite of what was reportedly a 92 MPH fastball -- he claims the team did not take too kindly to it. "The Mariners heard about that and didn't like it," Ichiro said through Alan Turner, his interpreter. "They called and told them not to let me pitch."

After being forced to switch from pitcher to first baseman in high school due to an injury, Ichiro all but abandoned pitching when he realized his skill at hitting and in the outfield. But, as he puts it, "for anyone who was ever a pitcher, there is always that dream to get back on the mound."

And if he gets to live out that dream, he's prepared with at least two pitches: "Fastball and slider." As for which one he would use as a strikeout pitch? "Like all Japanese pitchers, the splitter is my bread and butter."

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