Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton were dubbed by ESPN as the best outfield trio in baseball last month.
Tuesday, they welcomed a fourth amigo to the group: Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese player in Marlins history and one of only three professional hitters with more than 4,000 career hits. Ichiro met his new teammates and was an instant hit, cracking jokes and sharing laughs in Japanese, English and even Spanish.
It hardly mattered that the 41-year-old, 10-time All-Star was 16 years old before Stanton (25), Ozuna (24) and Yelich (23) were born.
“He’s a really funny guy,” Yelich said pointing out how Ozuna, a Dominican, was going back and fourth with Ichiro all afternoon in Spanish. “Oso’s trying to be fluent in Japanese by the end of the year. Those two were just going back and fourth all day. It was funny to watch. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Ichiro, signed to a one-year, $2 million deal to provide depth, said through interpreter Allen Turner he doesn’t want to be called old he wants to be put “in that group of young guys.”
“Hopefully it won’t look like I’m using a bat as a cane,” Ichiro joked.
Ichiro, who has 2,844 hits in the major leagues, said reaching 3,000 hits is a goal of his. But he said that’s not his only goal. He wants to win and he’s willing to accept whatever role the Marlins give him.
Ichiro said he’s thankful for the way the Marlins have treated him, flying out to Japan for his introductory press conference and allowing him to take his physical at home. They also are giving Ichiro his own room inside Marlins Park to put his specially designed pilates and stretching equipment.
“Any time you can play on the same team with a guy who is going to be in the Hall of Fame you want to learn as much as you can from him,” Yelich said. “I grew up watching him as a little kid. Now to be able to play with him it’s going to be cool.”
▪ Manager Mike Redmond reiterated Tuesday he plans to “mix and match” with the lineup once spring-training games start on Monday. “Maybe hit Giancarlo fourth, try [Martin] Prado two, see where Yeli fits in the three hole,” he said. “But definitely our lineup is stronger and deeper, and that’s going to benefit everyone.”