Opponent respects Ichiro's hitting prowess

Opponent respects Ichiro's hitting prowess

DETROIT -- No one fields too many questions about Ichiro Suzuki anymore. The 38-year-old outfielder quietly goes about his business and produces the same consistent numbers he's had during his 12-year career -- with the exception of last year.

Last season, Suzuki was a frequent topic of conversation, as he hit .272, the lowest average of his career and his first time batting under .300. He was considered a victim of age.

But some knew better. Tigers All-Star catcher Alex Avila, for one, said he believed last season was an aberration rather than an indication for the Japanese right fielder.

"I thought it was funny last year, people thought he was done," Avila said. "He's just a good hitter. He can hit anything, basically anywhere. A lot of pitches he hit [Wednesday] were good pitches and he just knows how to put the bat on the ball and place it where there's nobody around. He's been doing that forever."

Through 20 games, Suzuki has a .301 average, is pacing the Mariners with 25 hits and is tied for second on the team with nine RBIs. All while batting in the unfamiliar No. 3 spot, a decision that Avila commended.

"The thing is now, the reason why they put him there is so he can be up with guys on base, knowing how many hits he gets, which is smart," Avila said.