The 45-year-old Japanese outfielder has spent 13 of his 18 MLB seasons in Seattle.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto says 45-year-old Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is expected to be part of the club’s 28-man roster when Seattle opens the regular season in March in the Tokyo Dome against the Astros.
Of his 18 MLB seasons, Suzuki has spent 13 of them with Seattle, from 2001 through the 2012 season before he was traded to the Yankees. He is currently a free agent but is expected to be signed to a minor-league deal with an inviation to camp after the Mariners brought him back last season. Suzuki scored five runs on nine hits in 44 at-bats for Seattle in 2018.
Dipoto said the veteran outfielder will be promoted to the Major League roster before the team leaves for Japan.
“Ichi [Suzuki] will be on our team when we go to Tokyo,” Dipoto said Thursday, per MLB.com. “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.”
Dipoto did acknowledge that there is a chance Suzuki could take one of those spots depending on performance.
“That’s the way we envision the 2019 season playing out,” he continued. “But one thing I’ve learned with Ichiro, first of all his preparation and focus is the best I’ve ever seen on any player I’ve ever encountered. His single-mindedness in achieving a goal is so real that I won’t put anything past him.”
Despite committing to bring the 10-time All-Star to Japan, Dipoto doesn’t want to predetermine anything else about the upcoming season.
“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. “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.”
Both the Mariners and the A’s will be allowed to carry three extra players for the opening series before trimming their roster to 25 for the remainder of the regular season.
The two teams will meet in Tokyo on March 20 and 21.