Here's hoping Ichiro toes the rubber in the WBC
You might remember a post I did last year that had a link to Ichiro pitching in the 1996 NPB All-Star Game. Ichiro came out and immediately hit 90 on the TV gun on his first warm-up pitch, and then induced a soft grounder from pinch-hitter Shingo Takatsu.
Nearly 13 years later, Japan WBC manager Tatsunori Hara has, perhaps unintentionally, prompted Ichiro to return to the mound by suggesting that using him in emergency situations is a possibility in this year's tournament. In his workout on the 7th, he skipped batting practice and worked out as a pitcher. He threw 56 pitches off the mound at Skymark Stadium, throwing fastballs and forkballs. Word is that he hit 147kmph (92mph) with his fastest pitch. Ichiro said he wants to throw a little bit harder.
Hara isn't used to managing games that go beyond 12 innings, which might explain the idea of using Ichiro as a pitcher. Still, Ichiro would probably be the most credible pitching candidate among the fielders in this year's WBC. However far-fetched it might be, we might see Ichiro pitch in a competitive game this year.
First, about those links: the second of them is video worth watching not only for the baby-faced Suzuki's style -- and the obvious amusement of everyone involved -- but also for the chance to see all the different Japanese uniforms in one place; and of those four photos, the first two suggest that Ichiro's actually learned something about pitching since his All-Star outing. And while I'm not a scout, he looks pretty good to me.
I suppose it's a long shot, him pitching in the WBC. But for years, a friend and I have written Ichiro's name like this on our scorecards when we're at Mariners games: Ichiro! And if he somehow takes the mound next month, I vote for an extra exclamation point for the duration of his career.