Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto Expects Ichiro Will Be on 2019 Opening Day Roster

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 5, 2019

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners jokes around after a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 30, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Ichiro Suzuki, who has been playing professional baseball since his Pacific League debut in Japan as an 18-year-old in 1992, could have a spot on the Seattle Mariners' Opening Day roster in March.

Per Greg Johns of MLB.com, M's general manager Jerry Dipoto said Thursday that "Ichi will be on our team when we go to Tokyo. He'll be an active player."       

The 45-year-old Suzuki is a baseball legend who took the league by storm when he joined the Mariners in 2001. He won the American League's MVP and Rookie of the Year that season and proceeded to make the All-Star team every year through 2010.

Suzuki was traded to the New York Yankees in 2012 and played for the Miami Marlins from 2015-2017 before making 15 appearances for the M's in a 2018 return.

That spot comes with a few caveats, however.

First, Suzuki is a free agent, so the M's must agree with him on a deal.

Second, the spot is open largely because the Mariners open the season in Japan on March 20 and 21 against the Oakland AthleticsPer Johns, the rosters will expand to 28 men as opposed to the usual 25.

Suzuki can say farewell to fans in Japan in what could be his final professional appearance. He did tell Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald in 2017 that he wanted to play until he was 50 years old. It seems unlikely, however, Suzuki will channel his inner Satchel Paige and make an appearance in his 50s. (Paige did it at 58!)

Johns noted that "chances seem slim" Suzuki would be an active member of the 25-man roster once the M's went back to the United States and began the rest of their regular season March 28 against the Boston Red Sox.

If Ichiro's professional career ends in Japan in March, he'll go down as one of the greatest hitters the game has seen. At the moment, he has 4,367 career hits, which is the most in professional baseball history. Ichiro amassed 3,089 of them in MLB while earning a .311 batting average.

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