Mariners: Ichiro won't be pitching
Outfielder worked off mound for possible Classic outing
Now pitching for Team Japan, Ichiro Suzuki?
Not so fast.
Soon after news -- and photos -- broke of Suzuki's bullpen session in preparation for a possible mound stint in next month's World Baseball Classic, the Mariners outfielder's boss quickly squashed the angle.
"He's not going to pitch,'' Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik flatly said, as reported by the Seattle Times.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu had also hoped the reports out of Japan were more "propaganda than real."
"I don't think it's a good idea," Wakamatsu said. "I just don't think it is a very good idea after the career he has built. It wouldn't be worth hurting his elbow."
According to a Japanese sports Web site, Ichiro skipped batting practice at Team Japan's workout last Saturday in Kobe, Japan, and threw a 56-pitch bullpen session off a mound.
Ichiro reportedly threw 21 curveballs and a forkball that he learned in his younger days. His fastball was reported to have reached 92 mph.
Team Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said he might use Ichiro to pitch in emergency situations during the three-week Classic, which runs from March 5-23.
"Hopefully, it never gets to that situation," Wakamatsu said. "I don't know how much of it is propaganda, and how much is real. But I don't think it would be a good idea."
When Wakamatsu first heard about Ichiro's bullpen session and possible pitching appearance in the Classic, he thought of the injury Jose Canseco suffered in 1993 when he played for the Rangers.
Used in relief during a blowout loss, Canseco injured his right elbow, underwent surgery and missed the remainder of the season.
Ichiro, who reportedly has reached 95 mph with his fastball, has expressed a desire to pitch in a Major League game since arriving in Seattle prior to the 2001 season.
As recently as last season, Ichiro volunteered to pitch during an extra-inning game against the Tigers, but then-manager Jim Riggleman decided to use reserve catcher Jamie Burke in the 15th inning.
Later in the season, when the Mariners called Ichiro in from right field to use a five-man infield, he thought he would pitch instead of being stationed near second base.
Ichiro has asked every Mariners manager since he arrived -- Lou Piniella, Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren and Riggleman -- to pitch in a big league game. All of them said "no way."
Wakamatsu would say the same thing.