Trade whirlwind in past, Ichiro at ease

Trade whirlwind in past, Ichiro at ease

Trade whirlwind in past, Ichiro at ease
NEW YORK -- After exchanging handshakes and hellos with some of his former Mariners teammates before Friday's series opener at Yankee Stadium, Ichiro Suzuki said he has adapted quickly to his new situation and team as he's been thrust instantly into a playoff race.

Ichiro again was batting eighth and playing left field for his new club, wearing the No. 31 jersey -- still odd to see -- and still soaking in the largess of the Yankees' home clubhouse where his locker includes a computer that he's yet to use.

The 38-year-old veteran has even changed his long-held policy of not talking to the media before games, a situation he used to refuse because it interrupted his pregame routine. Instead, he exchanged small talk with several Seattle writers in English and then accommodated an interview request through interpreter Allen Turner.

Ichiro seemed happier and looser than he had in a long time while with the Mariners.

"Every day, I'm able to feel the main goal of this team, which is to win," Ichiro said. "As a baseball player who wants to do the best and compete, that just really makes me happy to be a part of that and be able to contribute to that common goal, which is to win."

Ichiro said the baseball adjustment has been easy, but he hasn't quite gotten used to putting on the Yankees pinstripes, or even picturing himself in the famous uniform of his new team.

"There is practically everything in this clubhouse, but there isn't a mirror where I can see my whole body," Ichiro said with a smile. "So I haven't really got to see what I look like."

Other adjustments are more obvious, including playing left field for the first time on a regular basis. Ichiro's only prior game in left was when former manager Lou Piniella played him there on Oct. 22, 2001, in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at the original Yankee Stadium in order to give Jay Buhner one last start in right field.

"I was very nervous, and obviously on my first day in left, there were some tough hits out there to me," Ichiro said. "But it's one of those things you just have to go through and get used to in game situations."

Ichiro's biggest moment so far in New York came when he hit a home run in Monday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. It was a momentous shot for the veteran, the 100th of his career, but he'll remember it more for the reaction from Yankees fans.

"I don't know if it was because it was my first home run as a Yankee or because it was my 100th home run, but I don't think I have ever received that kind of ovation from the fans -- that many and that loud," Ichiro said. "Maybe it was the first time in my career I received something that big."

Ichiro said he hasn't had enough time to closely follow the Mariners -- winners of seven straight entering Friday -- since his departure, though he knows they've been playing well. As for playing his former team again so soon?

"The emotions I went through in the first three games that I wore the Yankees uniform, I don't think anything will be bigger than that," Ichiro said. "Obviously, playing this series is a little different than playing other teams at this stage, but it won't be quite like it was in Seattle."