DETROIT -- Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki figured that a singles hitter, even one of baseball's best, would not have been a fitting representative of Japan in Monday's Century 21 Home Run Derby."Not that I was thinking about it, but there was more pressure on them wanting me to hit in this contest," Ichiro said through his interpreter, Allen Turner. "It's a difficult thing to do [saying no], but I never thought about it. "For me, I respect the Home Run Derby." Ichiro is a line-drive specialist who also makes a living on reaching bad pitches -- "I swing at those because I think I can get a hit," he explained, succinctly -- or hitting the top part of the ball and bouncing it past everyone. But it's not as if he doesn't have a power swing that he pulls out when the situation asks for a home run. "Not everything goes well, but I use it a lot," he said.
Ichiro, 31, is hitting homers at a high rate for him this season. He has six in 87 games this year. His career high is 12, in 2003, but in his other three complete seasons he finished with eight.But you got the feeling Ichiro isn't exactly brooding over his absence in the Derby. Asked whom he expected to win, he asked who actually is in the contest. Pressed for a prediction, here's his answer: "It's not that important."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.