Baseball / MLB

Ichiro Suzuki accepts offer to begin spring with minor league deal

AP

Ichiro Suzuki has agreed to a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners, paving the way for the 45-year-old to play in the Mariners’ season-opening series at Tokyo Dome.

Ichiro’s agent, John Boggs, confirmed the agreement on Wednesday and said Ichiro’s deal would become a major league contract if he is added to Seattle’s expanded roster for the two games the Mariners will play against Oakland to open the season in Japan. Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto has said Ichiro is expected to be on the roster for those games.

Ichiro started last season playing for the Mariners but transitioned into a front-office role as a special assistant to the chairman that allowed him to take part in pregame workouts and batting practice but not to be in the dugout during games.

The move ended his season abruptly but with the knowledge that Seattle was opening 2019 in Japan, which would be a highly anticipated opportunity for him to play in his home country. Ichiro was hitting .205 in 44 at-bats during his limited action in 2018, and all nine of his hits were singles.

But Ichiro has worked out through the offseason with the intent of being ready to open this season with the big league club. He was expected to be on the list of spring training invitees the Mariners were set to release on Thursday.

Ichiro was named both the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP with the Mariners and won a pair of AL batting titles.

He was traded to the Yankees midway through 2012, played parts of three seasons with New York, then spent three seasons with Miami.

The 10-time All-Star has a .311 average and 3,089 hits, not including the 1,278 hits he amassed in nine NPB seasons.

“One thing I’ve learned about Ichiro, his preparation and focus is the best I’ve ever seen in any player I’ve ever encountered,” Dipoto said earlier this month when Seattle introduced new pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. “His single-mindedness in achieving a goal is so real that I won’t put anything past him.”