Later this week, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will open the 2019 regular season with a pair of games in the Tokyo Dome. The Mariners and A's are in Japan now and have already played two exhibition games against the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters, respectively.
According to Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times, Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed Ichiro Suzuki will be in the starting lineup in his home country when the regular season begins later this week. From Coskrey:
"Ichiro is going to start for us in the first games against the A's," Servais said. "He's playing fine in the outfield, obviously he showed plenty of arm strength tonight on that one throw to third base. He'll start the game and we'll see how it plays out from there.
"I'm excited for him. It hasn't been a great spring training for him offensively, but if there's anybody who can turn it on for a few days it's certainly Ichiro."
The Mariners re-signed Ichiro to a minor league contract a few weeks ago and. Now we know he'll be in the starting lineup.
Ichiro is 0 for 6 at the plate through two exhibition games against Yomiuri, though he did unleash this vintage throw Monday:
Ichiro, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 15 games with Seattle last season before transitioning into a unique front office role that saw him travel with the team and take batting practice throughout the season. It was a way to keep him around but out of the lineup.
Over the years Ichiro has said he would like to play until he's 50, though that seems unlikely given the age-related deterioration of his skills and baseball's widespread aversion to older players. Ichiro has not addressed his future recently. Going out with two games in his home country would be pretty cool though.
The Mariners and Athletics will play regular season games Wednesday (5:35am ET) and Thursday (5:35am ET) this week, then return to the United States to continue the regular season next week. They will be allowed to use 28-man rosters during the two games in Japan.