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Cubs' Seiya Suzuki Announces He'll Play for Japan in 2023 World Baseball Classic

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 8, 2022

CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 05: Seiya Suzuki #27of the Chicago Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on October 05, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki announced Wednesday night that he would represent Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Meghan Montemurro @M_Montemurro

Seiya Suzuki announces he will play for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cubs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cubs</a> <a href="https://t.co/a5icG1Pht5">https://t.co/a5icG1Pht5</a>

He reportedly had been initially undecided about participating because of the tournament interfering with spring training preparations, per Tim Stebbins of NBC Chicago.

"I put myself in his shoes," manager David Ross told reporters at the winter meetings of Suzuki potentially playing in the WBC. "I would have loved to play for Team USA. How cool is that? You're going to get into the best competition in the world and be able to compete at a high level for your country. I would never want to take that away from anybody and always kind of push that experience. You should play if that's where your heart is."

Suzuki, 28, hit .262 with 14 homers, 46 RBI, 54 runs, nine stolen bases and a .770 OPS in 111 games this past season, his first with the Cubs after joining the team from Japan's NPB.

Ross said he wasn't worried about the WBC impacting Suzuki once the season began.

"He's our starting right fielder. He's going to be in the lineup," he said. "Whether you have a clean spring training and things aren't perfect to start our whatever, if that was the case, or maybe he starts on fire because of already facing great pitching. None of us know that, but I don't think that's something we'll blame or make an excuse."

"It doesn't matter," he continued. "You've got to go out and play and perform and win games. He's our starting right fielder. He'll be prepared. He works his tail off."

Suzuki previously represented Japan at the 2017 WBC and 2020 Olympics, so it always seemed likely he would take up the proverbial banners again for March's WBC.

Japan was slotted into Pool B alongside South Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic. They'll open their tournament against China on March 9.