Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto says Ichiro will play opening series in Japan after reportedly signing new deal
The Mariners open 2019 with a series in Tokyo and Ichiro will be on the roster
The great Ichiro Suzuki is not ready to hang up his spikes just yet. According to multiple reports, Ichiro has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners, his longtime team. The club has not yet announced the signing, but expect that to happen soon.
Here are the contract details:
Ichiro turned 45 in October and he played 15 games with the Mariners last season, going 9 for 44 (.205) with zero extra-base hits. Seattle released him in May and Ichiro transitioned into a front office role, albeit an unusual one in which he traveled with the team and worked out before games.
Although the signing may be a bit of a surprise, it has been in the works for weeks, and really has been a formality since the Mariners released him last May. The club opens the 2019 season with a two-game series against the Athletics in Tokyo and GM Jerry Dipoto recently confirmed Ichiro will be on the active roster for those two games. From MLB.com's Greg Johns:
"Ichi will be on our team when we go to Tokyo," Dipoto reiterated on Thursday. "He'll be an active player. We are still committed to the idea of developing this roster. Mitch Haniger is going to be our right fielder, Mallex Smith is going to play center field and Domingo Santana will be the primary left fielder. And we'll find at-bats for Jay Bruce, whether they be in left field, DH or occasionally at first base.
"Frankly if he rolls out in Tokyo and gets seven hits in two games, there's a pretty good chance he'll play a third game," Dipoto said with a smile. "You have to adjust as you go. We're not going to predetermine anything. We'll give him the opportunity to come in and do what he does, and prepare the way he prepares."
The Mariners and Athletics will be allowed to use 28-man rosters for the two games at the Tokyo Dome, which will be played March 20-21. It has been speculated Ichiro will retire as a player following the series in Tokyo but that is not set in stone.
Suzuki has played 13 of his 18 big-league seasons with the Mariners and is a career .311/.355/.402 hitter with 3,089 hits. Including the nine seasons he played with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan before coming to MLB, Ichiro has 4,367 professional hits to his credit, the most all-time. He is a slam dunk future Hall of Famer.
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