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Thursday, May 16, 2013
First Pitch: Ichiro should sit the most

By Andrew Marchand

Ichiro Suzuki
At age 39, Ichiro Suzuki's days of being a highly-productive player might be over.
With Travis Hafner close to a return, Joe Girardi will begin to unveil how he plans to use his four outfield starters in the three open spots.

Against most right-handed pitchers, Hafner will be the DH, leaving Girardi to choose between Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki.

They should all play, but Ichiro should be in the lineup the least.

That is going on the assumption that Wells keeps hitting and doesn't revert to the scuffling player the Angels were eager to offload for nothing more than financial relief. On Wednesday, he hit another homer, his 10th, tying him for the team lead with Robinson Cano.

I have been writing for a while about my doubts that a 39-year-old Ichiro is still a very productive player. He entered Wednesday as a .200 hitter against right-handed pitching in 85 at-bats. Of his 17 hits, two were homers and two were doubles, while the 13 others were singles. He had eight walks -- which is a lot for him -- so his on-base percentage was .269 or about 70 points lower than what might be reasonable to hope for at this stage in his career.

He went 0-for-4 on Wednesday night, dropping his overall average to .238. Even before the 0-for, his OPS against right-handers was .563.

Wells entered Wednesday with a .316 on-base percentage vs. righties, which isn't great, but is still superior to Ichiro. Prior to Wednesday's homer, he had six homers and an OPS of .805 against righties.

When lefties are on the mound, Wells will be either in the outfield or at DH. Why? Entering Wednesday, his OPS was .991 against southpaws.

Granderson is going to play because, despite all the strikeouts, he is a 40-plus homer guy thanks in large part to Yankee Stadium. The Yankees rightfully love Gardner's defense. But he still needs to prove himself with the bat. Overall, Gardner entered Wednesday with a .327 on-base percentage. That needs to be a bit higher.

I suspect Girardi will check his binder and come to the same conclusion I have. Of course he won't say it, but Ichiro will sit the most -- until further notice.

UP NOW: All the news from Wednesday night's game, including Phil Hughes not having it. David Adams was called up. You can get to know him here. I explained how Mariano Rivera is in the midst of one of the most iconic comebacks ever.

ON DECK: The rubber game of the series, as Aaron Harang (1-4, 7.30 ERA) faces Andy Pettitte (4-2, 3.83). And we will be throwing our ace, Wallace Matthews.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which outfielder would you sit the most?