As owners of one of the worst records in baseball, the Marlins have long been out of the playoff race, which set the table for them to have some fun in Sunday’s season finale. Trailing 6-2 in the eighth inning of Game 162, they decided to put Suzuki – the man who holds MLB’s record for hits in a single season – on the mound. And it sort of worked.
Suzuki pitched one inning of relief against the Phillies, giving up one run on two hits. Eleven of his 18 pitches were strikes, though, and he clocked an impressive 88 mph on his fastball. He also made Freddy Galvis look silly with a nifty breaking ball that would’ve had most people – like the 2015 version of Suzuki – swinging and missing.
Maybe Suzuki did know what he was doing, though. While he’s spent the last 15 years of his Hall of Fame career in the outfield, he was a pitcher during his high school years. He even took the mound during the 1996 Japanese All-Star Game, which gave Marlins manager Dan Jennings the crazy idea of changing his job title before the season’s end.
While the two spent the last month discussing the possibility of putting him on the mound, it wasn’t until his final at-bat of the night that Suzuki decided to put the plan in motion.
“We talked about the situation had to be right,” Jennings said. “And so his last at-bat, he’s on deck and looks down at me and says ‘You thinking about it?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s done, you’re in, you got it.’ And you know what, he’s earned that because of who he is and the career that he’s had.”
If this is the last we’ve seen of Ichiro, he’ll retire with 2,935 career hits (4,213 if you count his nine-year stint in Japan) and a 9.00 ERA.