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WBC hero Ichiro marks Mariners return with 3 hits

Kyodo

Fresh from helping Japan clinch the inaugural World Baseball Classic, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki marked his Seattle Mariners return with a 3-for-3 showing in the 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a preseason exhibition game Thursday.

News photo
Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners connects for a single during a preseason
game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Suzuki, who was the driving force behind Team Japan’s success at the WBC, singled to left in his first visit to the plate and added two more hits, including an RBI single to center, while catcher and compatriot Kenji Jojima went 1-for-3.

“I’d be happy for the regular season to start right now,” said Suzuki, who hit .364 in the Classic with one home run, five RBIs, seven runs and four stolen bases.

Suzuki said he did not have any regrets about choosing to miss a month of regular camp to participate in the Classic and was at a loss to describe how the feeling of joy after Japan conquered the world.

“I was able to perform in so many great games that I can’t say there was a negative part of the experience,” he was quoted as saying on the Mariners’ Web site.

“In my entire baseball career, it was the greatest moment. The first World Baseball Classic of all time and Japan won…I can’t express my feelings about that.”

Elsewhere, Akinori Otsuka, who closed out Japan’s victory over Cuba in the WBC final, pitched a scoreless ninth inning allowing two hits while striking out two in the Texas Rangers’ 5-4 defeat to the Chicago White Sox.

Hideo Nomo started for the White Sox and pitched two innings, giving up a run on a homer to Kevin Mench and two other singles.

Outfielder Tadahito Iguchi, who opted out of the WBC, batted second in the lineup for the first time this spring and went 1-for-5.

In Tampa, Florida, Hideki Matsui went 2-for-3, cracking his third spring homer and registering an RBI single in the New York Yankees’ 8-1 win over the Houston Astros.