• Kyodo

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The Seattle Mariners are close to landing a deal with seven-time Pacific League batting champion Ichiro Suzuki after the first round of negotiations on Thursday.

Ichiro’s agent Tony Atanacio, who met with Seattle’s top front office officials including chairman Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong, said he is satisfied with the talks and indicated they are entering the final phase of negotiations.

Baseball sources said Ichiro and Atanacio are demanding a multiyear contract spanning around five years, adding that a final deal would likely be done as early as Friday when the second round of talks is scheduled to begin in the morning at a Kobe hotel.

Both Lincoln and Armstrong declined to disclose details, but sounded satisfied about Thursday’s meeting.

Seattle, which advanced to the American League Championship Series this season, won exclusive negotiating rights to Ichiro with a bid of over $13 million earlier this month.

New PL president

The Pacific League of Japanese professional baseball on Thursday named former Mainichi Newspapers Co. president Tadao Koike as its new president.

Koike, 68, takes over from Kazuo Harano, a 72-year-old former Jiji Press president who announced his retirement at Thursday’s PL executive board meeting after his 10-year, five-term tenure.

“I’ll try my best to maintain cooperation with each club and make the Pacific League stronger and more popular, which I think is necessary for the further development of Japanese baseball,” Koike said.

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