Los Angeles (AFP) – Japanese hit king Ichiro Suzuki will transition to a front office role with the Seattle Mariners with immediate effect, the club announced Thursday, signalling the end of the veteran outfielder’s playing career.
Although the 44-year-old’s agent insisted the move did not represent retirement, the Mariners said on their website Ichiro would not play again this season.
“He is not retiring — he’s taking on a different role for 2018, and 2019 has yet to evolve,” Ichiro’s agent, John Boggs, told MLB Network, adding that it was “possible” he could play in the Mariners’ season-opener in Japan next year.
The Mariners said Ichiro — who is only contracted to the club to play this season — would work as a special assistant advisor for the franchise.
“We want to make sure we capture all of the value that Ichiro brings to this team off the field,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
“This new role is a way to accomplish that. While it will evolve over time, the key is that Ichiro’s presence in our clubhouse and with our players and staff improves our opportunity to win games. That is our No. 1 priority and Ichiro’s No. 1 priority.”
In July last year, Ichiro passed Rod Carew for most hits in Major League Baseball history by a foreign-born player.
In 2016, he became the 30th player with 3,000 major league hits.
“With Ichiro’s track record of success, his personality, his unique perspective and his work ethic, he is singularly positioned to impact both our younger players and the veterans in the clubhouse,” Dipoto said.
“We really don’t want him to change anything that he’s doing right now, with the exception that he will not be playing in games.
“We believe that Ichiro’s signing and his assimilation into our team has helped us this season, and we want to make sure we continue that.”
Ichiro spent the bulk of his Major League career with Seattle between 2001-2012 before stints with the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins.
He rejoined the Mariners this year on a one-year deal.