ST. PETERSBURG -- Every now and then, Ichiro Suzuki will corkscrew his body on a swing that makes you raise your eyebrows a bit. But you can't read too much into it, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi has learned, because the veteran is always capable of lining the next pitch into the outfield.
"I mean, he's been doing that for years," Girardi said. "When you're hitting .330 and getting 200-plus hits, no one says a word about it. When you're not, they're going to say, 'Well, he looks [bad].' No, he's had those swings his whole career because of the way he hits."
Ichiro's 2013 season got off to a slow start, but he delivered two big hits in Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Rays, scoring the tying run after an eighth-inning single and smoking Fernando Rodney's 99-mph fastball into center field for a go-ahead two-run single in the ninth.
"I just wanted to be ready mentally, emotionally be ready for that," Ichiro said through interpreter Allen Turner. "I swung at the first pitch and was ready to go out there."
Ichiro entered play on Wednesday batting just .220 (13-for-59), but for the series finale in St. Petersburg, Girardi promoted him to the No. 2 spot in the lineup against Rays right-hander Alex Cobb, stacking four lefties at the top because the Yanks' lineup is still without Kevin Youkilis and Girardi wanted to give Vernon Wells a day off.
Still, Girardi said that he doesn't believe Ichiro's performance after he was acquired by the Mariners last season -- a .322 average with 28 runs scored, five homers and 27 RBIs -- was a fluke.
"I see the ball in BP; it jumps off his bat," Girardi said. "I really believe he's going to hit, and I believe his at-bats have been better."