SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki was officially welcomed back by the Mariners on Thursday as the 45-year-old outfielder was announced as one of the 26 non-roster invitees the club will bring to Major League Spring Training next month.Ichiro signed a one-year Minor League deal for $750,000 this week and will be
SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki was officially welcomed back by the Mariners on Thursday as the 45-year-old outfielder was announced as one of the 26 non-roster invitees the club will bring to Major League Spring Training next month.
Ichiro signed a one-year Minor League deal for $750,000 this week and will be given a chance to land a roster spot when the club opens the season in Japan against the A's on March 20-21.
"Our intent in signing Ichiro is to bring one of the great players in the history of baseball -- not just the history of the Mariners' organization -- back to the playing field and see what happens," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Especially since this is what he wants to do. We want to handle Ichiro with all the respect and gratitude in the world for what he's done for the Mariners' organization, and really celebrate him for what he's done globally for baseball."
Seattle will be allowed to carry three extra players on a 28-man Major League roster for those two international games before cutting down to 25 when they resume the regular season a week later at home against the Red Sox.
Dipoto has committed to having Ichiro on the roster for the two Tokyo games if he's healthy coming out of Spring Training, but is not guaranteeing anything beyond that as the club embarks on a makeover with a large influx of young players and an eye toward the future.
Ichiro hit just .205 in 44 at-bats over 15 games in the first month last year for Seattle, then took a position as "assistant to the chairman" that allowed him to continue working out and hitting with the team on a daily basis.
He's now working out in Japan with the goal of being ready not only for the Tokyo games, but potentially a full season with Seattle. That appears a long shot, as the Mariners' youth movement doesn't line up well with a player now 11 years removed from his string of 10 consecutive All-Star seasons, but Dipoto isn't closing any doors.
"First we have to ensure that he's healthy enough to be on our roster in order to go [to Tokyo]," Dipoto said. "But when we come back, our goal is to develop our young players. I don't know how [much] more clearly I can say that. We want this season to be about [young outfielders] Mitch Haniger and Mallex Smith and Domingo Santana.
"Whatever happens as we get into the season, we want to develop that group of players, and we have a responsibility to the veteran players we've committed to, guys like Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion. So there is playing time [issues]. We can't make up extra games in the season or create spots on our roster.
"But we can be open-minded to what happens. When great players get opportunity, it's amazing what they can do with it. I don't ever want to guess what will happen with Ichiro if he gets an opportunity to take his at-bats. Because I'm sure he's made a career out of proving people wrong, so I'm not going to guess on the side that says he's wrong."
Of Seattle's 26 non-roster invitees, 14 are players who signed Minor League deals: right-handed pitchers Jorgan Cavanerio, Nabil Crismatt, Tyler Danish, Robin Leyer and Tayler Scott, left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone, catchers Jose Lobaton and Austin Nola, infielders Dustin Ackley, Orlando Calixte and Tim Lopes, and outfielders Tito Polo and Ichiro.
The list also includes some of Seattle's top prospects, including pitcher Justin Dunn (No. 3 per MLB Pipeline), outfielders Kyle Lewis (No. 4) and Eric Filia (No. 22), first baseman Evan White (No. 5), catchers Cal Raleigh (No. 18) and Joe DeCarlo, and outfielders Jake Fraley (No. 27) and Dom Thompson-Williams (No. 16).
Right-handed pitchers Ryan Garton, Jack Anderson and David McKay, left-hander Matt Tenuta and catcher Dean Nevarez have also earned invites to camp, which starts on Feb. 11 when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Peoria, Ariz.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.