SEATTLE >> Around the All-Star break, Ichiro Suzuki made the difficult decision that it was time to move on from the Seattle Mariners.
In a surprise trade Monday, he got his wish.
Going from worst to first, Suzuki joined the New York Yankees in a deal that sent two marginal young pitchers to Seattle.
“I am going from a team with the most losses to a team with the most wins,” he said. “It’s hard to contain my excitement for that reason.”
Wearing a pinstriped suit, Suzuki joined his new teammates in the visitor clubhouse at Safeco Field and, several hours after the trade, was cheered by Mariners fans when he took his position in right field — in place of the injured Nick Swisher.
In the third inning, he was given a standing ovation before his first at-bat against the only team he played for in 11½ major league seasons. Suzuki tipped his batting helmet and bowed twice to the more than 29,000 in attendance.
The 38-year-old Suzuki slapped a single to center field then stole second base. He went 1 for 4 in his Yankees debut and caught the final out.
“I was worried about my first at-bat,” Suzuki said after the Yankees’ 4-1 victory. “I was really relieved with the standing ovation. It was a special day today.”
The Yankees also got cash in the deal that sent 25-year-old righties D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar to the last-place Mariners.
The Yankees made the trade a few days after learning that speedy outfielder Brett Gardner would likely miss the rest of the season because of an elbow problem, and manager Joe Girardi said Suzuki will mostly play left field.
“We’re very excited with the caliber of player we are getting. We feel that he brings the speed element. He’s a tremendous hitter. That speed element is what we lost when Gardy had surgery,” Girardi said. “So this is a big day for us.”
Suzuki was given No. 31 because the number he wore his entire career with the Mariners, No. 51, has not been worn since four-time World Series champion Bernie Williams last played.
“No. 51 is a special number to me, but when I think about what 51 means to the Yankees, it’s hard for me to ask for that number.”
Mitchell made his major league debut this season and pitched four games for the Yankees. Farquhar made his big league debut last year with Toronto and was claimed last month on waivers by the Yankees from Oakland.
Suzuki had spent his whole big league career with Seattle. The 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner is batting .261 with four home runs, 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases this year.
Suzuki is a career .322 hitter, a former AL MVP and holds the record for most hits in a season. He had batted over .300 in every season until dipping last year.
The only thing missing on Suzuki’s resume is an appearance in the World Series, and he may get a chance with the Yankees.