It was a hero’s welcome crossed with the movie star treatment.
Ichiro Suzuki got to walk the red carpet to home plate on Monday night at Safeco Field prior to the Marlins game against the Seattle Mariners when his former team honored his achievement of surpassing 3,000 career major-league hits.
Ichiro joked after the game that he was glad the city and team for which he played his first 12 seasons in the major leagues still remembered him.
“It’s been so long that I could’ve been forgotten,” Ichiro said. “For them to do that for me, I’m very thankful. It reaffirms that this is a special place.”
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It had been a little under three years to be precise.
Ichiro started in left field — something he said had not done before at Safeco Field during his time with the Mariners — and played his first game there since June 10-12, 2014, when he returned to Seattle as a member of the New York Yankees.
Ichiro, who became the 30th player in MLB history to join the prestigious 3,000 hits club last season on Aug. 7 in Colorado, was greeted by former teammates on the field just as a video retrospective had finished playing on the scoreboard.
The montage featured several of his greatest hits, including his record-breaker in 2004 with the Mariners that surpassed George Sisler’s single-season hits mark, as well as last season’s 3,000th hit.
“Ichiro deserves everything he gets,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s a great player and has been a great player for a long time. It was nice to see that.”
The Mariners dignitaries presented him with a couple of framed pictures from his career.
The whole time, the crowd estimated at 16,990 gave Ichiro the warm welcome everyone expected.
“It’s been three years since I’ve been back and to get that warm reception that I did get, with the ceremony and having the guys come out — Edgar [Martinez] and Felix [Hernandez], [Kyle] Seager and [Hisashi] Iwakuma come out — I’m just grateful, grateful to them and grateful to the fans.”
Ichiro received ovations before each of his three at-bats and even one as he trotted back to the dugout in the eighth.
In the bottom half of that inning, Ichiro got another hand from the crowd after he ran down a fly ball by Taylor Motter and made a leaping catch just in front of the left field wall.
“Even when I was with the Yankees, I never played left [field] here at Safeco, so this was the first view I got from that angle,” Ichiro said. “So it definitely kind of felt weird, was a little different. It’s a different experience.”
Ichiro was asked if he felt the same way as Hall of Famer and former Seattle Mariners star Ken Griffey Jr., who once said Seattle felt like home during a return visit. Ichiro, who is staying at the team hotel with the Marlins, said he plans to stay at his house in Seattle on Wednesday night before the team moves on to San Diego.
“I’m not sure along with what Griffey said, but for me this is home,” Ichiro said. “It always will be. This is my home. On the last day, I’ll stay at my house.”
Marlins starting pitcher prospect Dillon Peters fractured his left thumb on Monday night during his start for Double A Jacksonville.
Peters, rated the organization’s No. 5 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, was hit by a line drive and exited the game after 1 2/3 innings.
It’s unclear how much time Peters will miss, but it’s a definite setback for the 24-year old lefty who is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts so far, and the Marlins who were hoping he could be a potential roster call-up at some point later this season.
Peters, a 10th round draft pick of the Marlins in 2014 out of the University of Texas, went 14-6 with a 2.36 ERA last year splitting time between Single A Jupiter and Double A.
▪ Martin Prado was not in the lineup on Tuesday a night after making his season debut, but leaving the game in the seventh inning with a cramp in his right calf. Derek Dietrich got the start at third base.
"It was a cramp and not anything more than that, but we just felt like it wasn’t worth the risk throwing him back in there tonight," Mattingly said. "He’s a little frustrated right now from the standpoint of he just got off the DL and then that happens.”
▪ Adeiny Hechavarria (oblique strain) played his second rehab game Tuesday in the minors at Jacksonville after playing Monday in Jupiter. Mattingly said barring any setbacks the team is planning to activate Hechavarria from the DL for the team’s upcoming series in San Diego which begins Friday.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Edinson Volquez (0-1, 3.45 ERA) vs. Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez (1-1, 2.95), 3:40 p.m., Safeco Field.
▪ Thursday: Off.