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Spring Training 2013: Lineup for New York Yankees Could Start with Ichiro Suzuki

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18:  Ichiro Suzuki #31 of the New York Yankees bats against the Detroit Tigers during game four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 18, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Phil WatsonCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2013

Derek Jeter has been the primary leadoff hitter for the New York Yankees since 2009. But coming off a postseason ankle injury that may have bothered him for half of last season, according to George King of the New York Post, manager Joe Girardi might be looking at other options at the top of the lineup card.

King reported Tuesday morning that Ichiro Suzuki might be used as the leadoff hitter if Jeter isn’t 100 percent by the time the season approaches.

“There are question marks that have to be answered,” Girardi told the Post. “We have to assume Derek is going to be healthy, but what if he isn’t? That can change. We have to see where we are about March 25, March 26 before we really put this all together.”

Suzuki revived his offensive game after coming to the Bronx in a trade from the Seattle Mariners last July. He hit .322/.340/.454 with five homers and 27 RBI in 240 plate appearances for the Yankees after managing just a .261/.288/.353 line in 423 plate appearances for the Mariners in 2012, with four home runs and 28 RBI.

Suzuki was a leadoff hitter during most of time in Seattle, appearing in the top spot in the order 1,751 times as a Mariner starter.

As a leadoff hitter in Seattle, Ichiro hit .324/.368/.420 in his career with 97 home runs and 609 RBI, while scoring 1,134 runs and stealing 423 bases in 520 attempts.

Obviously at age 39, Suzuki isn’t the speedster he once was—he led the American League with 56 stolen bases as a 27-year-old rookie in 2001 on his way to scoring Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors.

But he still stole 14 bases in 19 attempts for the Yankees in 67 games last season and was 29-for-36 overall in 2012, so he knows how to run the bases.

Suzuki told King he had no preference where his name appears on the lineup card.

“I have experience in many different spots,” Suzuki said. “I want to be that player they say can do a lot of things. Right now I have not earned a starting spot. Right now I have to try and earn a spot in the lineup.”

Girardi told King he could use Suzuki in either of the top two places in the order after primarily deploying the veteran outfielder in the bottom third of the lineup last season.

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