Ichiro had batted eighth in his first two games for New York following Monday's trade, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to try something different as the club wrapped up its seven-game West Coast road trip.
"He's been there a lot," Girardi said. "We moved Curtis [Granderson] to the fifth spot, an RBI position. We just thought we'd give this a shot and see how it works out."
Girardi wouldn't commit to anything long term with Ichiro at the top of the lineup, but he is open to shuffling his lineup now that the Yankees know they will be without third baseman Alex Rodriguez for an extended period of time.
"I prepare myself to play, wherever that might be," Ichiro said through a translator. "But I'm ready. That's what I prepare my game for, so I'm ready for that."
Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand, and the Yankees recalled infielder Ramiro Pena from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Derek Jeter, who had served as the Yankees' regular leadoff hitter and was dropped to the No. 2 spot, had no trouble adjusting, homering off Hisashi Iwakuma in the top of the first inning. Girardi said he spoke to both Ichiro and Jeter late on Tuesday to tell them of his plan. The skipper said he didn't want to try Ichiro as the No. 2 hitter, because that would have moved Mark Teixeira to third and Robinson Cano to fourth.
"You're trying to stay away from really stacking too many left-handers together, is what I'm trying to do," Girardi said.
Ichiro's on-base percentage was just .290 entering play on Wednesday; the outfielder had a .262 batting average with four homers and 28 RBIs in 97 combined games between Seattle and New York. He was 2-for-7 with a double and a stolen base in his first two Yankees games.
"He knows how to do it; he's been successful at it," Girardi said. "He's swung the bat well since we've had him here, and we expect it to continue."