Ichiro steps up to the mound as a relief pitcher on the Miami Marlins’ final game of the regular season. Photo courtesy: screenshot
PHILADELPHIA－Ichiro Suzuki, 41, took to the pitcher’s mound for the first time in his 24 year career as a professional baseball player.
During the Miami Marlins‘ final game of the regular season, Ichiro came off the bench from the third inning as a right fielder and in the eighth inning, when Miami Marlins were behind four runs against the Philadelphia Phillies, Ichiro stepped onto the mound.
Ichiro hit 88 mph (about 143 km/h) with his fast ball and even used some breaking ball pitches during his one-inning relief appearance. He surrendered two hits and one run against five batters during the inning, which is pretty good considering he hasn’t pitched in a professional level game since a 1996 All-Star game in Japan.
Ichiro told reporters he thought about three things before he pitched.
The first thing was throwing strikes, the second was throwing balls in rhythm, so as to make it easy for fielders to defend, and the third was trying not to smile on the mound. He felt that if he looked like he was enjoying the experience it might come off as rude to the other team.
“I thought that the fastball was the best, but it was actually the slider,” Ichiro said after the game. “I was shocked about it. I will never talk bad about a pitcher. Fielders are likely to badmouth a pitcher, but I will try never to say it.”
Ichiro talked to Marlins manager Dan Jennings about one and a half months ago about taking a turn as a relief pitcher.
“We talked about the situation, it had to be right,” Jennings said. “His last at-bat, he’s on deck. He looks at me, and says, ‘you thinking about it?’ I was, ‘oh yeah, it’s done. You’ve got it.’ He’s earned that.”
“There are only a few players who are able to play both as a pitcher and a fielder,” Jennings said. “He is a wonderful player, so he has the qualification to take the mound.”
Watch below to see Ichiro do a pretty decent job as a pitcher.