Dipoto: ‘Very real possibility’ Ichiro plays for Mariners in Japan next year

May 3, 2018, 4:51 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm
Ichiro Suzuki made his final Mariners appearance of 2018 Wednesday. (Matt Pitman photo)...
Ichiro Suzuki made his final Mariners appearance of 2018 Wednesday. (Matt Pitman photo)
(Matt Pitman photo)

Ichiro Suzuki may have stepped away from the Mariners’ active roster for the rest of the 2018 season, but don’t rule out the chance of him appearing in a game once more in a Seattle uniform.

Watch: Top 10 plays of Ichiro’s MLB career

Judging by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s comments on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore on Thursday (listen here), both Ichiro and the Mariners are leaving the door open for one more run.

“I think it’s a very real possibility,” Dipoto answered when asked if Ichiro might play for the M’s when they open the 2019 season with two games in his native Japan. “While we can’t promise that in this stage of the game, it’s something that we’re open-minded to.”

The one thing that is for sure is that if Ichiro does play another game for the Mariners, it won’t be this year. He will continue to be in the clubhouse, maintain the same locker, and take part in on-field pregame activities including batting practice. He won’t be in the dugout during games, however.

It’s important to Ichiro to continue to be a part of the team, and the Mariners feel the same about having his presence around the squad.

“His 2018 is done, and that is by his proclamation,” Dipoto said. “He is not retiring, but he has determined that he does not want to play anywhere but with the Mariners. And that was something we were all thrilled to hear during the course of discussion. He made us aware of how important it was for him in his career journey to come back here to Seattle.

“Obviously we know he’s had a Hall of Fame career. He’s been one of the great players, really globally one of the great players in history. And he talked about the fact that his career would be incomplete if it did not end the way it ended, which is coming back to Seattle. And we have come up with what we think is a mutally-productive and creative way to make sure that his career doesn’t come to an end. That in effect he’s impacting the Mariners on an every day basis.”

Watch: Mariners’ James Paxton strikes out 16 Oakland A’s

Dipoto expressed how valuable having a player with Ichiro’s stature around the team has been.

“He has more presence than any player I’ve ever encountered. There’s something about him and what he carries into a room. … When you see Ichiro take his seat on the plane and he’s sitting next to Dee Gordon, and Mitch Haniger swings his legs around from across the aisle and immediately engages, and the guy sitting in front of him leans over the seat and starts to enter the conversation. And Ichiro, I don’t want to say he’s holding court, but those players are trained on what he’s thinking or what he’s talking about in that moment.

“Whether it’s just a casual conversation or his recall of past encounters on a baseball field, the way he prepares, his regimen. He fascinates most players because of how disciplined he is and his preparation. And that exposure to greatness is truly invaluable to a team.”

Photo gallery: Ichiro steps away from Mariners’ roster

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