Ichiro confident he can still contribute in New York
TAMPA, Fla. -- The crowded Yankees outfield promises to make this Ichiro Suzuki's most uncertain spring as a big league player, but the veteran expects that he will be able to find a niche to help the team win games.
Upon learning that the Yankees had added both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran this winter, Ichiro said that his immediate reaction was to exclaim: "Oops!"
"This is a place where the greatest players gather and play, so I'm really excited to play with those guys," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "Obviously with the additions, I'm going to have to find a place for myself.
"But I've worked hard this offseason and I've worked on a lot of things. Throughout Spring Training, hopefully those things will come together and we'll see where it goes from there."
The Yankees project to have Ellsbury in center field, Beltran in right field and Brett Gardner in left field. Alfonso Soriano will see time at designated hitter, but can be available to play the outfield with Ichiro, who may be asked to fill roles as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
"It starts tomorrow," Ichiro said. "My job up to this point was to come here healthy, in good shape, and that's what I did. I'm here and we'll see where it goes tomorrow."
Ichiro, 40, acknowledged that he had thoughts this offseason about being traded.
"When you're here with the Yankees, you tend to think about those things," Ichiro said. "You just never know, like I said before, with great players coming here. I thought about a lot of things, which I think a lot of players do."
Ichiro has 2,742 Major League hits, and said that he is not thinking about reaching 3,000. As he heads into his 14th big league season, Ichiro said that he is not sure how much longer he expects to play.
"I do have goals and dreams about certain things, but when you get into the late 30s, you just have to take it year by year," Ichiro said. "Obviously you have goals within that, but you can't really make a long-term goal when you're in this stage. I think you just take it year by year and go from there."