Despite his struggles at the plate that have followed him to Japan, Ichiro Suzuki will be in the lineup for the start of the MLB season Wednesday in Tokyo.
Ichiro was hitting .080 in spring training and went hitless in six at-bats in two exhibition games against the Yomiuri Giants. The Seattle Mariners play the Oakland A's Wednesday to kick off the season.
"Ichiro is going to start for us in the first games against the A's," manager Scott Servais said, according to the Japan Times. "He's playing fine in the outfield. Obviously he showed plenty of arm strength tonight on that one throw to third base. He'll start the game and we'll see how it plays out from there.
"I'm excited for him. It hasn't been a great spring training for him offensively, but if there's anybody who can turn it on for a few days, it's certainly Ichiro."
Ichiro showed that he still has a big arm at age 45 on Monday, catching a fly ball in the third inning and firing a bullet to third to make sure the runner on second didn't advance. The fans at the Tokyo Dome went crazy, which isn't a big surprise considering Ichiro has carved out the best MLB career of any Japanese-born player.
In the first game Sunday, Ichiro signed autographs down the third-base line before the game and then made a fine running catch up against the wall in deep right field in the first inning. But the man with 3,089 MLB hits can't seem to buy one now.
The Mariners can accommodate Ichiro with a special 28-man roster for the Japan visit, but they will revert to 25 when the season resumes in the United States a week later.
After that, Ichiro's future is uncertain. He stepped aside early last season, temporarily retiring to become a Mariners special assistant.
Servais played down the notion that Ichiro is under pressure here to get hits.
"I don't think Ichiro is under any pressure," Servais said Sunday. "He's certainly earned the right to partake in this series."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.