MIAMI — Ichiro Suzuki is a pretty safe bet to be enshrined in Cooperstown one day, and Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Cubs marked another day of history along the way for the international icon.
At 43 years and 246 days old, the Marlins outfielder started in center against the Cubs, making him the oldest starting center fielder since 1900, per Elias Sports. The record was previously held by Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who made his last start in center on July 24, 2002, at 43 years and 211 days old, while with the Red Sox.
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Manager Don Mattingly had no idea of the feat when he penciled Ichiro’s name on the lineup card.
“Seriously?” Mattingly said. “I thought about it though in the first: ‘We have a 40-something out there in center.’ But he doesn’t play like that. He runs good, throws good, so it didn’t feel like that.”
And while the 17-year Major League veteran went 0-for-4, he didn’t waste time making his presence felt. His quickness helped force an error on a grounder to shortstop Addison Russell in the first inning, and he scored on a Marcell Ozuna single.
Ozuna’s RBI single
Ozuna’s RBI single
Marcell Ozuna lines a single to center field, scoring Ichiro Suzuki to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st inning
As Miami’s fourth outfielder, Ichiro was in to give Christian Yelich a day of rest. It marked his 10th start this season and first since June 11 at Pittsburgh, a day after he replaced Giancarlo Stanton following a first-inning hit-by-pitch.
Mattingly could’ve easily shifted left fielder Marcell Ozuna to center on Sunday, but he opted to go with his 43-year-old instead. There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in Mattingly’s mind.
“No, absolutely not,” Mattingly said. “I know he’s not as comfortable in center as he is in right, but you’re never afraid to put Ich on the field in any situation, because he’s prepared, he works every day like he’s going to play. You’re never even remotely worried about him being in the wrong spot or not throwing to the right base.”