...while it lasted.
Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu can breathe a sigh of relief. Ichiro's flirtation with the mound is over. Word got back around to Seattle's brass and coincidentally, Ichiro announced that he's stopping. I'm sure the Mariners would have found out about this anyway, but I'd like to think that NPB Tracker played a role in development.
Anyway, after his mound session on the 7th, Ichiro took three days off. Ichiro is training on his own so we don't know if he would have taken those days off anyway, but when he returned, he commented to Sanspo: "my upper-right body is still. I'm quitting (pitching) (big laughter)". Nikkan Sports had a similiar quote: "my shoulder is stiff and won't move. Getting caught up with pitching got me into a little trouble"*. And with that, Ichiro returned to hitting and fielding drills in the wonderful Green Stadium Kobe Skymark Stadium.
I think Ichiro proved a point - he has enough baseball talent to do something like this with credibility. Most of the commentary I saw on this was positive, aside from the Mariners fans who were reasonably worried he'd get hurt. It's tempting to think we could see Ichiro play in the field and then come into pitch - it's too bad he doesn't throw left handed, so we could see him play in the field, pitch to a batter, and then go back. Maybe it's better for this to be part of the Ichiro folklore, but I'll go on the record and say I would like to see him pitch in a real game.
Before I go, let me be pedantic and clear up a couple of mistranslations I've seen around the web on this story:
- Ichiro didn't throw 21 curveballs, he threw his first breaking pitch on his 21st throw
- There was never any mention of Ichiro throwing a curveball, only forkballs
- Ichiro isn't training with Team Japan. He's training on his own at Kobe's Skymark stadium, and he has a couple former players working out with him
- As far as I know, Tatsunori Hara didn't ask Ichiro to warm up as a pitcher. From what I've seen he simply said he'd have to use a fielder in an emergency situation given pitch count and tiebreaker rules, and Ichiro took to the mound on his own. If someone else knows differently, let me know.
*The phrases Ichiro used are a little ambigious to a non-native Japanese speaker like myself. Here's the original Japanese: 「肩がパンパンになって動けなくなった。調子こいてピッチングしたらエライことになった」