Playing more, Ichiro quickly rising toward 3,000

Playing more, Ichiro quickly rising toward 3,000

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ichiro Suzuki spent the first 14 seasons of his Major League career in the American League. Perhaps it's no wonder he looked as comfortable as ever as the designated hitter against the Twins on Wednesday night.

Ichiro had three hits, scored a run and knocked in another in Miami's 7-5 loss at Target Field. He has been one of the Marlins' few bright spots in two games here this week.

Ichiro's five hits in 10 at-bats the last two games have moved him to within 29 hits of becoming the 30th player in Major League history with 3,000 hits.

Perhaps more impressive is the rate at which Ichiro could reach the 3,000-hit plateau. Expected to be a part-time player at the beginning of the season, the veteran outfielder has his fair share of at-bats, especially over the last two weeks.

With consistent playing time, it's possible Ichiro could approach 3,000 by the All-Star break.

"You never know how much playing time [he's going to get]," said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. "With our young outfielders, sometimes you'd think it was going to be tough to get him at-bats. But you also know that over the course of a baseball season, guys are going to get hurt, guys are gonna get nicked up. These American League games fit into him matchup-wise."

With Ichiro's batting average up to .330 and his on-base percentage approaching .390, Mattingly could have no choice but to find the 42-year-old veteran steady at-bats.

Ichiro's RBI single

"He's pretty amazing," Mattingly said. "I think we gotta stop talking about age with him, because it just seems like he keeps doing it, and if you keep doing it, you shouldn't have to talk about his age.

"This guy is in great shape, he's still a good defender, steal a bag when you need it and he can hit. This guy is still a really good player."

Ichiro showed off his base-stealing ability on Tuesday, swiping second late in a 6-4 loss. The steal was the 504th of his career, tied with Twins manager Paul Molitor for 38th on the all-time list.

On Wednesday, Ichiro's RBI single in the fifth inning helped the Marlins dig out of an early 4-0 hole. Marcell Ozuna followed with a two-run single and Giancarlo Stanton added an RBI knock, and by the end of the half inning, Miami had tied the game at 4.

"Ich was good tonight," Mattingly said. "I thought that was a good matchup for him. [Twins starting pitcher] Ricky [Nolasco] fits right into what [Ichiro] does."

Dan Myers is a contributor to and covered the Marlins on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.