Ichiro Suzuki’s bones didn’t suddenly start creaking and aching. When he checked the mirror, all his teeth and hair were still in place. But, for the first time in his career, Ichiro was the oldest player in the majors when he woke up on Friday.
Asked for his thoughts on the distinction, Ichiro replied with sarcasm: “I’m happier than the 3,000 hits.”
After 44-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon was designated for assignment by the Braves on Thursday, the 43-year-old Ichiro inherited the title of “oldest.” Next on the list: 42-year-old Braves starter R.A. Dickey.
The title might be temporary if Colon lands with another team.
Ichiro said he doesn’t feel his age.
“I think I’ve gained a lot of gray hairs,” Ichiro said. “But when you look at the on-field stuff and how I feel and how my body is, for me, I haven’t changed.”
Ichiro is suffering through the most trying season of his outstanding career. After going 0 for 4 on Thursday in what was only his 11th start, Ichiro took a .200 average into Friday — more than 100 points below his career average.
“Obviously, I’m not getting a lot of opportunities now,” he said. “When you don’t perform well in those limited opportunities, it’s tougher on you. It kind of stays with you longer. So I definitely feel that.”
Ichiro continues to close in on milestones, though. He needs two more hits to tie Rod Carew for 24th on the all-time list with 3,053.
Age, Ichiro said, is only a number.
“It doesn’t really cross my mind,” he said. “I think it’s some stuff people can look at and enjoy and have fun with. But other than that, I feel the same as I have in the past.”
Told that Charlie Hough holds the franchise record for being the Marlins’ oldest player (46), Ichiro smiled and replied: “I’m going to practice knuckleballs.”
Tom Koehler said his mission during his stay in the minors was simple: get outs.
“I wanted to have good results because if you don’t have good results there, you’re not coming back here,” Koehler said.
On Saturday, Koehler will return to the mound for the Marlins for the first time since May 16, when another poor outing led to a stint on the disabled list and his demotion to Triple A New Orleans.
“You miss it. I miss being here,” Koehler said Friday after arriving at the Marlins’ clubhouse.
Koehler struggled before going down to New Orleans.
In eight starts for the Marlins, he went 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA. His “rock-bottom moment” came in his last start for Miami when he gave up eight earned runs on seven hits and four walks in only three innings.
“I wasn’t throwing the ball well,” Koehler said. “I needed to get right. So I understood — still understand — the move. When I went down, I realized I wasn’t throwing the ball as well as I thought I was.”
After several impressive outings with New Orleans, Koehler is hoping to keep it going with the Marlins.
“When you have something taken away from you, you kind of realize how much you appreciate it and how much you love it, and you appreciate it a little bit more,” Koehler said.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Koehler (1-2, 7.04 ERA) at Milwaukee Brewers RHP Zach Davies (8-4, 4.96), 4:10 p.m., Miller Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (5-4, 3.44) at Brewers RHP Junior Guerra (1-2, 4.54), 2:10 p.m., Miller Park.