Akihiro Kado finally had to abandon ship on Ichiro Suzuki’s quest for 3,000 major-league hits. The Tokyo businessman shadowed Ichiro and the Marlins for two weeks — from Philadelphia to Miami and then to Chicago — exhausting his vacation time before returning home to Japan.
Ichiro said he feels badly for fans like Kado.
“I think for the fans that are out there, following me to get this, I feel bad that I didn’t get it done in front of them,” Ichiro said Friday in Denver. “I want to get it done. But I feel bad when I don’t do it for them.”
Ichiro has been stuck on 2,998 hits since July 28.
Once again, he wasn’t on manager Don Mattingly’s lineup card as the Marlins opened a three-game series at Coors Field. Ichiro has started just twice over the Marlins’ past 14 games, and entering Friday he had gone hitless in his past 10 at-bats, most of them while being used as a pinch-hitter.
Ichiro said he has felt pressure throughout his career whenever he has stepped into the batter’s box. But he said the pressure he’s experiencing now as he closes in on 3,000 hits has an entirely foreign feel.
“I feel pressure every time I get up to the plate,” he said. “There’s never been an at-bat where I haven’t felt pressure. But there’s different types of pressure, and I think this is a little bit different. It’s just a complete different experience, the type of experience I’ve never had before.”
Ichiro can’t help but feel it. Fans are giving him standing ovations every time he steps to the plate. They did it in St. Louis. They did it in Chicago. They will likely do it in Denver.
“People know that St. Louis fans are like that,” he said. “And I was actually shocked that this time in Chicago, I was really surprised that I got that ovation.”
But Ichiro has been unable to pay them back with a hit, at least lately.
“I think pinch-hitting is a tough thing,” he said. “You can say it’s one of the toughest things to do. And then, on top of that, given the circumstances that we’re in now, the added pressure that I have, I think that’s where I’m at right now, just experiencing that whole deal, trying to get it.”
Like everyone else, Ichiro just wants to get it over with.
“Obviously, I get up to the plate and the fans are so warm and wanting me to get a hit,” Ichiro said. “They’re up on their feet, and I feel that. I’m human just like anyone else. If I cut myself, I bleed red. I don’t bleed green. If you don’t feel something when you’re up there with that kind of ovation, I don’t think you’re a human being.”
BOUR’S RETURN PUT ON HOLD AGAIN
Justin Bour’s return from the disabled list has been delayed once again. Instead of rejoining the team in Denver as the Marlins were anticipating, the first baseman returned to South Florida from his rehab stint in New Orleans with continuing ankle and leg issues.
“It seems like every time he’s playing, something else is sore, something else is tight,” Mattingly said. “So, obviously, he’s not physically ready to go. We sent him back to our physical trainer just to get him healthy.”
Mattingly said that in addition to the ankle sprain that landed Bour on the disabled list, he is also dealing with discomfort in his legs and hips. Mattingly said the earliest Bour could return to the lineup is Monday in Miami.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.54 ERA) at Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (9-6, 5.16), 8:10 p.m., Coors Field.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (7-6, 3.41) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (8-4, 3.77), 4:10 p.m., Coors Field.