To replace the shelved Brett Gardner, Brian Cashman and the Yankees must consider pursuing future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki remains one of the fastest ballplayers in the game today.

New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner once again experienced pain in his bummed right elbow after playing in a simulated game Sunday and his agent, Joe Bick, acknowledged the speedster may be shelved for the remainder of 2012.

“We don’t want to think that way, but it’s certainly got to be in the conversation,” said Bick, who added his client will likely undergo another MRI tomorrow. “The severity of this injury has caught us completely off-guard.”

Gardner, 28, who has played in only nine games due to injury since agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.8 million for the 2012 season, has been diagnosed with an elbow muscle strain, a bone bruise and joint inflammation.

The 2011 American League co-leader in stolen bases, who the Yankees (55-34) took out of the College of Charleston in the third round of the 2005 draft, is an extremely disciplined hitter and the only member of the team with even a granule of speed.

Granted, geriatrics Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have impressed to date and combined for 22 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Unfortunately, neither Jones nor Ibanez can create chaos on the basepaths or compete defensively in the outfield with the erstwhile Cougar who earned his second consecutive Fielding Bible Award last autumn.

More worrisome, shopworn juicehead Alex Rodriguez currently leads New York with 10 steals and that’s a horrifying stat for a team that often has difficulty manufacturing runs.

The Yankees are steamrolling the competition and seem destined for October play.

Nevertheless, although not exactly akin to Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson, the graying Bombers can’t sustain their brilliant pace in the playoffs without a burner like Gardner active in the lineup.

A healthy Brett Gardner is able to mask what is essentially a collection of talented antiques.

Regardless of how his birth certificate reads, a legitimate option for the Yankees to consider is the 38-year-old, still blazingly fast, Ichiro Suzuki.

As Suzuki continues to decline, the Seattle Mariners are reportedly willing to deal the future National Baseball Hall of Famer prior to the trade deadline on July 31.

Ichiro, a Japanese icon who made his debut for the Mariners on April 2, 2001 and earned American League MVP and Rookie of the Year honors six-months later, is hitting .260 with a mere four homers and 28 RBI through 89 games.

Seattle, at 38-53 and 17 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West, is a franchise in transition and skipper Eric Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik have an obligation to fans to upgrade their roster and plan for the future.

Granted, the two-time AL batting champion, who in 2004 established the record for most hits in a season with 262, is not the ballplayer he once was.

Still, Ichiro remains a very difficult out at the plate, a true menace on the basepaths, and a sound defender.

Hence, the 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner would absolutely better a contending team with title aspirations like the Yankees.

The extraordinarily diligent Ichiro, who has compiled 2,525 hits since premiering in “The Emerald City,” would make sense for Brian Cashman and New York as long as Zduriencik doesn’t act like a jackass and request the farm for the fading star.

In the twilight of his illustrious career, Ichiro Suzuki could undoubtedly reemerge, again dominate the diamond, and help the Bombers capture their 28th World Series championship in franchise history.

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