NEW YORK -- He might not be an active player anymore, but that didn't stop rumors from swirling about the possibility of Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki taking part in next month's All-Star Home Run Derby in the nation's capital.
What started as a lighthearted conversation among Seattle's coaching staff grew into something that caused a stir in the clubhouse before Wednesday's game.
"He's got power and he's been launching balls into the seats," manager Scott Servais said. "A couple of coaches said the other day 'You know, no one wants to do this Home Run Derby. Why don't we just send Ichiro? He'd be awesome.'"
The idea gained momentum when Servais mentioned it on a radio show earlier in the day, and suddenly a new Twitter hashtag was born -- #IchiForDC.
Not officially retired, but unlikely to appear in another big league game, the Japanese-born Suzuki shifted to a new role as special assistant to the chairman in early May after batting .205 in 15 games. The 44-year-old travels with the club and is in uniform for the Mariners' games, helping out with batting practice and other drills while keeping a locker in the clubhouse.
Servais was happy that the concept was being discussed, even if it was nothing more than a joke.
"This is really good because he's been giving me a hard time, so I'm really glad to throw this back in his lap," a grinning Servais said.
The former MVP and Rookie of the Year found the humor in the situation but promised to get revenge on the M's skipper.
"It's the funniest thing he's said this first half of the year," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I'm definitely going to get him back. I'm going to continue to get him."
Although the future Hall of Famer tallied 3,089 hits in the majors, only 117 of those were home runs. Despite reaching double-digit homers in just three of his 18 big league seasons, Suzuki often displayed prodigious power in batting practice, and it was widely believed that he could have clubbed a lot more over the fence if he tried to.
"Right now I'm eating two hamburgers at lunch, and now that this Home Run Derby thing came up I'll have to up it to three cheeseburgers for lunch, get some more power," Suzuki quipped.
Instead of trying to hit for power, the 10-time All-Star maintained an unorthodox yet effective swing throughout his career that helped him the league in hits seven times. Even though he's still in game shape, Suzuki didn't seem to entertain the idea of throwing his hat in the ring for the annual power contest.
"I'm not a player [anymore], and just the long, great history that MLB has, I don't think it would be good for it," Suzuki said. "But I think it's fun and I'm happy that it's come up."
If Suzuki did try his hand against some of the game's top sluggers in D.C., however, he knows who he'd want pitching to him.
"Mark Buehrle," he said, after a long contemplative pause.
Suzuki was 27-for-66 (.409) against the burly left-hander, who won 214 games over 16 seasons.