TOKYO — Ichiro Suzuki has told the Seattle Mariners he will retire after Thursday’s game in Tokyo, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Kyodo News was first to report the story.
Many expected Ichiro, 45, to retire after the series in Japan or when the Mariners returned home for two spring training games with the San Diego Padres before the regular season resumes March 28 against the Boston Red Sox.
Japanese fans had been hoping it would not be the end of his career, but they knew it was likely. In Japan, they also thought that it might be the swan song when Ichiro played here in 2012 with the Mariners — also against the Athletics — and had four hits in one game.
He has had only two hits in 31 at-bats in spring training, including two exhibition games in Japan.
“Seven years ago, it appeared he had played for the last time in Japan,” Fumihiro Fujisawa, head of the Japanese Association of Baseball Research, told The Associated Press. “I don’t think anybody believed he would be active now.”
Ichiro is in the starting lineup for the Mariners against the Oakland Athletics in Thursday’s game. Seattle manager Scott Servais had earlier hinted that, after Ichiro started in a season-opening victory against the A’s on Wednesday, he might not start Thursday in the final game of the brief series.
“I wasn’t quite sure,” Servais said. “I thought we’d give him the opportunity to go out there. And I’d love to see him get a couple of hits and finish on a high note here.”
Ichiro was entering his 19th season in the major leagues after nine seasons in the Japanese leagues.