NEW YORK (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki has spent a decade of Octobers watching the baseball playoffs, shouting at his TV like so many fans.
Celebrating an AL East championship Thursday night with his new teammates, he noticed life is different now that he's with the New York Yankees.
"Usually that would be the end of my season," Suzuki said Friday night before a workout at Yankee Stadium. "What I've realized is here, for the Yankees, is that it's the starting point."
Acquired from the Seattle Mariners in late July, Suzuki helped spur the Yankees to their 13th division title in 17 years with a special September. On Sunday, he most likely will be playing in the outfield for Game 1 of the division series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees were 9-9 against the Orioles, who finished two games back in the division.
Manager Joe Girardi has until Sunday at 10 a.m. to submit his playoff roster and on Friday night all he would guarantee — giving a thumbs up — is that CC Sabathia (15-6) will start Game 1 on the road. But it's safe to say he will give plenty of action to Suzuki, the Japanese star who will turn 39 on Oct. 22. When making the trade, the Yankees planned to rest Suzuki against left-handers.
"We had talked to him about that he might sit against some lefties for us. But he got so hot that it was almost impossible to take him out of the lineup," Girardi said. "He played the last 15 days in a row, 16 games, and he was huge for us during that time. I don't anticipate us sitting him."
The 10-time All-Star came to New York hitting a career-low .261 and with a reputation for being a malcontent in the Seattle clubhouse. He dismissed all that immediately, impressing the Yankees with his knowledge of English, sense of humor and a remarkable stretch at the plate.
He helped carry the Yankees through a thrilling September run — hitting .385 (35 for 91) with 11 RBIs for the month — and New Work won the division on the last day of the regular season.
He's fun," Derek Jeter said last week. "In order to do what he has for that many years, you have to have fun."
The Yankees had some fun Friday night, working out in an eerily quiet stadium under the lights after a day and a half off to celebrate.