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Ichiro Suzuki ready for first playoffs in decade

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Ichiro Suzuki ready for first playoffs in decade

NEW YORK (AP) Ichiro Suzuki has spent a decade of Octobers watching the baseball playoffs, shouting at his TV like so many fans.

Celebrating an AL East championship Thursday night with his new teammates, he noticed life is different now that he's with the New York Yankees.

``Usually that would be the end of my season,'' Suzuki said Friday night before a workout at Yankee Stadium. ``What I've realized is here, for the Yankees, is that it's the starting point.''

Acquired from the Seattle Mariners in late July, Suzuki helped spur the Yankees to their 13th division title in 17 years with a special September. On Sunday, he most likely will be playing in the outfield for Game 1 of the division series against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees were 9-9 against the Orioles, who finished two games back in the division.

Manager Joe Girardi has until Sunday at 10 a.m. to submit his playoff roster and on Friday night all he would guarantee - giving a thumbs up - is that CC Sabathia (15-6) will start Game 1 on the road. But it's safe to say he will give plenty of action to Suzuki, the Japanese star who will turn 39 on Oct. 22. When making the trade, the Yankees planned to rest Suzuki against left-handers.

``We had talked to him about that he might sit against some lefties for us. But he got so hot that it was almost impossible to take him out of the lineup,'' Girardi said. ``He played the last 15 days in a row, 16 games, and he was huge for us during that time. I don't anticipate us sitting him.''

The 10-time All-Star came to New York hitting a career-low .261 and with a reputation for being a malcontent in the Seattle clubhouse. He dismissed all that immediately, impressing the Yankees with his knowledge of English, sense of humor and a remarkable stretch at the plate.

He helped carry the Yankees through a thrilling September run - hitting .385 (35 for 91) with 11 RBIs for the month - and New Work won the division on the last day of the regular season.

He's fun,'' Derek Jeter said last week. ``In order to do what he has for that many years, you have to have fun.''

The Yankees had some fun Friday night, working out in an eerily quiet stadium under the lights after a day and a half off to celebrate.

``Crazy to be out here at night time,'' Sabathia said walking onto the field. ``Weird.''

After stretching, pitchers took fielding practice just as they do during spring training. The only sounds were the popping of balls in gloves, some chatter and the rumbling of the elevated 4 train beyond the right-field wall.

During batting practice, the Braves-Cardinals wild-card game played on the video board and players in the outfield turned and watched as fans in Atlanta littered the field with trash after a controversial infield fly call.

Center fielder Curtis Granderson said it was tough to tell if the call looked correct seeing it on TV, but as an outfielder on the play, his thought was ``catch the ball.''

Due to a one year scheduling change, the Yankees will start the division series on the road, even though they have the No. 1 seed throughout the AL playoffs because their league-best 95-67 record. There were two travel itineraries on each player's chair in the clubhouse. First baseman Mark Teixeira said it doesn't matter.

``We're going to have to win some games on the road to get to the promised land anyway,'' Teixeira said.

Teixeira took at-bats in a simulated game to work on his timing. He played in only one game in September because of a left calf strain, then went 2 for 16 in three games in October.

Another player who missed considerable time to injury was Andy Pettitte (5-4). Back in the big leagues after taking a year off, he broke his lower left leg when he was hit by a hard drive on June 27 and didn't return until Sept. 19. The lefty made three starts in September and gave up only three runs in 16 2-3 innings.

The winningest pitcher in postseason history said he had an idea when he would pitch but wouldn't say if he'd be in road grays or pinstripes.

``That might be a dead giveaway,'' he said.

NOTE: INF Jayson Nix ran the bases after batting practice and hit in the simulated game with Teixiera. He's been out with a strained hip and likely will be left off the first-round roster.

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

The Orioles have finally found their man.

After entering the Winter Meetings without having yet hired their new manager, a rarity in this era of baseball, the Orioles announced Friday that they had hired Brandon Hyde to fill the role.

Hyde joins the organization after spending half a decade in Chicago under Joe Maddon, and many years prior with the Marlins. He has a long background in player development, something that was important to new Orioles GM Mike Elias, which makes sense considering the state of the organization and their upcoming rebuilding process.

Hyde is 45, so he’ll have the opportunity to stick in Baltimore for a long time if he finds success, however, Elias defines it, in the next few seasons. Many times, the manager leading a team as it embarks on an organizational rebuild is not the same one who leads them back into contention, but the Orioles front office will certainly hope Hyde is up to both tasks.
 
“After conducting an intensive search, I believe that we have found the ideal leader for the next era of Orioles baseball,” said Mike Elias, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager, in a statement released Friday.

“Brandon’s deep background in player development and Major League coaching, most recently helping to shape the Cubs into a World Champion, has thoroughly prepared him for this job and distinguished him throughout our interview process. I look forward to introducing him to our fans next week and to working together with him to build the next great Orioles team.”

Elias was thought to have preferred someone with Major League experience, so as to avoid saddling an up-and-coming manager with multiple 90-plus loss seasons inevitably on the horizon in Baltimore. Hyde technically has experience coaching in the big leagues, though it comes in the form of a single game. The Marlins lost his one game as acting manager 2-1 to the Rays, and Jack McKeon was named interim manager the next day.

Maddon has developed a reputation as a stellar communicator and somebody open to analytics, and it stands to reason that Hyde would follow a similar style of leadership, especially considering how critical those traits are in the eyes of Elias.

Hyde replaces Buck Showalter, a beloved figure in Baltimore after his 8 ½ seasons at the helm brought winning baseball back to a city desperate for relevancy. Showalter’s contract was not renewed at the end of this past season, an understandable decision given his age and how long it will be until the franchise is ready to compete again.

Reports swirled about Hyde being named the 20th manager in franchise history as early as Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, though Elias and the front office were quick to emphasize that nothing was official at the time. In the end, Hyde does end up accepting the job, and he’ll be introduced at a press conference Monday.

Nationals bench coach Chip Hale was, along with Hyde, one of six finalists who interviewed for the position, so the Nats won’t be losing a valuable piece of their staff.

The Orioles are in the honeymoon phase of the rebuild, where hope springs eternal and the losses to come haven’t set in yet. Hyde checks all the boxes for what Elias was looking for, and despite his relative inexperience, he’s someone who should excite, if not necessarily inspire, the fanbase in Charm City.

Orioles fans won’t have many exciting acquisitions to cheer on in the near future, but they may have just made one of their most impactful. The O’s finally have their GM-Manager combination set for the foreseeable future, and they’ll hope to experience as much success and more as the previous regime.

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

Orioles new general manager Mike Elias is a busy man out in Las Vegas. Not only is he looking to add much needed talent to Baltimore's roster but he is also searching for a new manager. Elias interviewed six candidates, including Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, for the vacancy. On Monday, Elias said they were “pretty far along in the process.”

Then the reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Orioles had found their man. 

For a second straight year, Joe Maddon's bench coach has landed a managerial job (Davey Martinez). 

But, in the words of College Gameday's Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend!"

Does that mean Hyde is not the manager? Not necessarily. It likely means Elias wants the news to come out on his terms.