No joke. As we speak, Ichiro is preparing to pitch for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Japan news outlet Nikkan Sports (requires a translator to view) was the first to confirm that Ichiro threw a 56-pitch bullpen session over the weekend, hitting the low-90’s on the radar gun, and even mixing in a forkball to keep prospective hitters off balance (that’s a photo of his session to the left…gonna have to lose the shades if he ever wants to make something of that pitching career).
For those of you wondering if Ichiro has pitched competetively before, the answer is yes. He appeared in late-inning relief of the 1996 NPB All-Star Game (Japan’s version of the MLB All-Star Game), faced one batter, and was able to induce an inning-ending groundout.
So will Ichiro pitch for the M’s? Eh, probably not, but who knows. Stranger things have happened after all. Just ask relief ace/backup catcher Jamie Burke, who knows firsthand what it takes to be a utility pitcher in the big leagues. My solution is to let Ichiro battle it out in Spring Training with the other relievers for the closer job. I mean really, who would you rather see in the ninth? Tyler Walker? Please, give me 30 saves out of Ichiro and I’m good.