The rebuilding Seattle Mariners will have far fewer familiar faces on their opening roster when their season begins March 20 in Japan. Yet the oldest and most familiar face of them all, 45-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, is still expected to be there.
General manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed this week that the Mariners are planning to include Ichiro on their expanded opening day roster. That would give the baseball legend a chance to play one final time in his home country, while creating a dream scenario for newly signed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who grew up idolizing Ichiro in Japan.
“Ichi will be on our team when we go to Tokyo,” Dipoto told reporters at Kikuchi’s introductory press conference. “He’ll be an active player.”
The Mariners began transitioning Ichiro into a front office role during the 2018 season. He appeared in just 15 games, with the final one coming on May 2 at Safeco Field. He finished the season with nine hits in 44 at-bats.
Despite what appeared to be a retirement as an active player, Ichiro insisted that was never the case. He always intended to play again in 2019. It seems the Mariners are intent on having him, perhaps even beyond what on the surface appears to be a goodwill gesture.