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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 18, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Ichiro transcript: He addresses possible leadoff switch, Japan trip and other topics


Ichiro (shown above chatting with hitting coach Chris Chambliss before today’s workout),met with the media after practice. It was his first public comments with the English-speaking press since the end of last season. He declined to answer any contract questions — his deal is up at the end of the season — but did address the possibility of not hitting leadoff this year, as manager Eric Wedge has suggested.

“It’s too early. We just went through our first workout. But I can say this: I’m always prepared for a new challenge. That’s how we all have to move forward. If that’s the case, we’re out there to perform as a baseball player, and go all out.”

I asked him if his approach would change if he ended up hitting in another spot in the order: “I think it’s tough to change your hitting style just because you’re in a different spot. So it’s difficult to say if my hitting style would change because it’s not easy as a player to change your hitting style because all of a sudden you’re hitting somewhere else.”

Regarding the upcoming trip to Japan to open the season with two games against the A’s, he said:” It’s a new experience, and it’s definitely a different year. We’ve never had that opportunity before, so it’s new for me, and new for the team. This is something we’ll probably have once in a lifetime. So I look forward to that and I’d like to take advantage of that.”

Asked whether he is hoping that Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Mariners’ principal owner who has never seen his team play, attends the game, he said: “Yes, of course. But it’s hard to control that. Personal feelings cannot control that.”

Here are the rest of his comments:

On being excited to be back on the field: “Yes, of course. This is where we begin our new challenge as a new team, and we all have hope. This is always an exciting day for us.”

On whether he changed his routine this offseason: “Every year is different, like I’ve said in the past. I had my own different routine this year.”

Reflections on last year: “My stance towards a new year, what you think during the offseason, doesn’t change. You reflect regardless of what kind of year you have. That said, I go through the same process during the offseason, and I come fresh and go for a new challenge.”

On the new players coming to camp in good shape: “It’s a good thing. That shows spirit, that shows motivation, that shows how hard they work for the team. That gets us all excited.”

On how long he’d like to keep playing: “It’s hard to say as a player, because when I first came here in 2001, I never thought I’d be here in 2012. You would wish you’d be there, but you never know as a human being. It’s the little things that count, and the little things you build off to where you’ve come this far.”

On negotiating a new contract: “I don’t think it’s necessary for us to talk about contract, because it’s not going to change my approach. I work hard regardless. I don’t want to talk about negotiations or contract.”

On whether he’s confident he can have a rebound year: “We always feel fresh and we always feel open to new challenges every year. That’s never changed. I feel the same again this year. But I’m happy a lot of people say that I suffered last year.”

Does he feel he suffered: “It was a tough year, don’t get me wrong….If those numbers were in ’01, a lot of people would have said, ‘Hey, this guy can’t play.’ In other words, the expectation is very high.”

On playing with Munenori Kawasaki: “The first time I met him was in 2006. Since then, he’s always had that emotion to how he played. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how he used to imitate me back when he was in junior high, and he would always think of me as his top idol. I’ve heard that through many people, and I’ve always like him, first impression. So I’m happy to be on the same team.”

On whether it’s flattering to hear how Kawasaki wanted to come to the Mariners because of him: “You feel very happy because it’s hard to find a player that would say that at this level.”

On his pride in seeing Japanese players like Kawasaki, Hasashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish continue to follow him to MLB: “I’d like to say I have a lot of pride in our country. But that’s what I would like to keep for the future. You look at other countries, like Venezuela and the Domincan Republic, they have a lot of stars that perform at this level. When you compare Japan to those countries, we’re not there yet. That’s what I look forward to saying in the future.”



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