Ichiro Suzuki hasn't played center field in more than four years -- not since June 15, 2008, to be exact -- but he will tonight against the Blue Jays as Joe Girardi gives Curtis Granderson the night off.
Girardi said he approached Ichiro, who has played mostly left field as a Yankee, a couple of days ago and asked if he would be able to fill in at center field, a position he played in 266 games for the Mariners, including 155 games there in the 2007 season.
Ichiro's answer was the same as the one he gave to a group of media who asked him about the move before tonight's game: "Of course.'' Still, Ichiro shagged fly balls in center field before Wednesday's game in Detroit in preparation for tonight's start.
"If the team needs me to play center, I play center,'' Ichiro said through his interpreter, Allen Turner, before the game. "Obviously it’s a little bit of an adjustment going from right to center or left to center. But moving from right to left is more of an adjustment.''
Ichiro, who has played more than 1,500 of his 1,800 big-league games in right field, agreed to the Yankees' desire to make him a left fielder as a condition of accepting a trade. He also agreed to batting at the bottom of their lineup after a 12 seasons of hitting either first or second for the Mariners.
"When you’re on the Yankees, you have a job and you concentrate on the job you’re given,'' he said. "Any place in the order, we can attack and create runs, so whatever that is, you just focus on that. Wherever the want me to play or hit, that is what I do.”
Is there any assignment Ichiro would refuse at this point? "If they said, can you play catcher, I’d probably have to say no,” he said.