Ichiro producing off the bench for Yankees

Ichiro producing off the bench for Yankees

CHICAGO -- Ichiro Suzuki came into the season as a fifth outfielder on the Yankees' depth chart, but with Carlos Beltran on the disabled list and his return date unknown, the 40-year-old veteran is expected to see an increase in playing time.

"He's been really, really good," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's also been a really good pinch-hitter for us. He got on base again [Thursday] night, he handles that role really well. As we've talked about with Carlos not being here, he's going to play a lot more against right-handers."

Ichiro entered in the ninth inning of Thursday's 3-2 loss to the White Sox and laced a pinch-hit single, and scored on a two-run Mark Teixeira single. After going 1-for-2 with two walks in Friday's 6-5 loss, he has 12 hits in his last 27 at-bats and is batting .373 (25-for-67), including hitting safely in 13 of his 16 starts, with seven multi-hit games.

Though Ichiro's preference would be to play every day, Girardi believes that Ichiro has been a good soldier off the bench.

"You would think it would be difficult, but he's handled it really well, so it hasn't been that hard on him," Girardi said. "It's probably harder on young kids who don't have thousands and thousands of at-bats under their belt, and don't know how to prepare as well as Ich. But he's been really really good at it."

The Yankees expect to have further clarity about Beltran's situation on Monday, when he will attempt to resume swinging a bat. Beltran is on the disabled list with a bone spur in his right elbow. If it requires surgery, Beltran would miss eight to 12 weeks.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.