07/27/12 7:04 PM ET
Ichiro excited to make home debut in pinstripes
By Steven Miller / MLB.com
The 38-year-old already wore the pinstripes; he owned a Yankees jersey as a fan of Major League Baseball growing up in Japan. He already heard roll call; traveling Bombers fans in Seattle treated him to it at Safeco Field, although it took two attempts before the former Mariners outfielder realized what was happening.
And he is already accustomed to media scrutiny, previously from a Japanese media contingent that followed his every move through 11-plus seasons in Seattle.
"This guy's been through a lot in his career when you think about the expectations and media coverage that has surrounded him with the ability has," said manager Joe Girardi. "We're pretty confident that New York isn't going to be anything too big for him, and that's comforting."
But Ichiro has not been in the postseason since 2001 -- his first season in the United States -- and has not been in a pennant race since '07. The Mariners finished with a losing record the past two seasons, and are on their way to another this year.
Ichiro says he approached every game with the same mentality, though, and estimates it would be more difficult to make the transition from a team in a pennant race to a team out of contention than the one he made.
Ichiro led off his third game as a Yankee on Wednesday in Seattle, but Friday against Boston he was back in the eighth spot, where he hit in his first two games for New York. He played right field in every game, but Girardi said once Nick Swisher returns from a left hip flexor strain, Ichiro will move to left, where he shagged fly balls during batting practice before Friday's series opener.
Ichiro played center field and right field in his previous trips to Yankee Stadium as a visitor, but he said it will take more experience to grow accustomed to roaming the outfield on a regular basis.
And while Ichiro also has to grow accustomed to a new clubhouse -- where his locker sits between former Mariners teammates Rafael Soriano and Raul Ibanez, whose locker also neighbored his in Seattle -- he already knows what to expect in New York.
"As visitor coming in for 12 years, I've gotten to see some of what goes on here," Ichiro said. "What I realized is really mentally, the Yankees really are different than the teams I've been on."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.