TOKYO Ichiro Suzuki feels a renewed sense of passion after finally signing a two-year contract to stay at the New York Yankees, the Japanese outfielder said on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old, a career .322 hitter with 2,606 hits in 12 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), called the storied 'Bronx Bombers' a unique ballclub.
"Re-signing for the Yankees has awakened a fresh determination in me," the 10-times All Star told Japanese media after a workout in Kobe.
"This is a team that can select A-Rod as a pinch-hitter we're talking about," he added, referring to fellow future Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez.
Ichiro's future with the Yankees had hung in the balance, the player unhappy that talks on a new deal were taking so long and threatening to negotiate with other clubs.
However, after agreeing terms on a deal worth $13 million over two years, Ichiro is expected to be the team's starting right fielder this season.
"It is an absolutely unique team," said Ichiro, who reportedly turned down more money from other MLB teams to remain in the Yankees pinstripes.
"Being able to take my place alongside such players has been something I have thinking about."
Ichiro joined the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners last July and was 73-for-227 (.322) in 67 games with New York, stealing 14 bases.
He broke a string of MLB records since joining Seattle in 2001, including the single-season record for hits with 262 set in 2004 and having 10 consecutive 200-hit campaigns.
Ichiro helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 and retain the title in 2009 but will not play in this year's edition.
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Peter Rutherford)