Mariners bring back hitting legend Ichiro


Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has signed a one-year contract with his former club, the Seattle Mariners, the American League team announced Wednesday.

Under the $750,000 deal, the 44-year-old will again wear No. 51 for Seattle. He can earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses.

“I want to be able to help the Seattle Mariners,” Ichiro said at a news conference. “I want to give it all — everything that I’ve gained, everything that I’ve done in my career. I want to just give it all right here in Seattle.”

Ichiro had been training in Kobe preparing for his 18th Major League Baseball season after his three-year stint with the Miami Marlins came to an end last November, making him a free agent.

“The addition of Ichiro gives our team another versatile and athletic outfielder,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement.

“His incredible work ethic, preparation and focus will enhance our environment in many ways. He’s truly one of the great players in the history of the game and his unquestionable presence is a valuable addition, both on the field and in the clubhouse. We’re very glad to bring him back home.”

On Wednesday, Ichiro stated that he intends to play until “at least 50,” not until 50 as had previously been thought.

“I want to become someone who is welcomed back by the fans, and I want them to mean it from their hearts when they say that. I will work hard every day,” he said.

“Getting an opportunity to play (for the Mariners) again, I’m having an emotion that is very different from the excitement I felt when it was decided I would be playing in the major leagues in 2001. I’m very happy.”

In 2001, Ichiro hit .350 with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases to earn the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards. After 11 full seasons with the Mariners during which time he became a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, he joined the New York Yankees in a midseason trade.

Last season, Ichiro played 136 games for the Marlins, mainly as a pinch hitter, with only 22 starts as an outfielder. He batted .255 with three home runs and 20 RBIs, and his 27 pinch hits left him one shy of the single-season record.

He ranks 22nd on the all-time list, with 3,080 MLB career hits.

Ichiro was the first Japanese player to move to the majors via the posting system, signing with the Mariners in November 2000 after they won exclusive negotiating rights with a bid of $13 million. He was also the first position player from Japan to sign with a major league club.

Ichiro played for the Orix BlueWave (now Buffaloes) for nine seasons. He won seven consecutive Pacific League batting titles (1994-2000) and earned three straight PL MVP awards starting in 1994.