TOKYO - Ichiro Suzuki is looking forward to starting the baseball season the way he ended last season: as a member of the New York Yankees.
The Yankees and Suzuki finalized a $13 million, two-year contract in December that kept the 10-time All-Star in the Bronx after he was obtained in a trade with Seattle last July.
"Signing with the Yankees has given me a new sense of determination," the 39-year-old outfielder said Tuesday after a workout in Kobe. "This is a unique team, a team that can have a player like Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter is special and to be part of that is exciting."
Suzuki, who'll make $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons, revived his career and quickly became a fan favourite in New York. His batting average jumped from .261 with the Mariners to .322 with the Yankees, with five homers, 27 RBIs and 14 steals.
A key player when Japan won the World Baseball Classic in both 2006 and 2009, Suzuki has opted out of this year's tournament in March, saying he decided after the 2009 event that he had no intention of playing in 2013.
"There is no reason for me to explain that here," Suzuki said, adding that he intends to watch the tournament.
A 10-time Gold Glove outfielder with speed and a strong arm, Suzuki has 2,606 hits in 12 major league seasons. He expects to see time in the two corner outfield spots, especially after right fielder Nick Swisher signed with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent.
Suzuki bristled when asked about turning 40 in October.
"It's annoying to be asked about age," he said.