Brian Fuentes announces retirement

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Veteran left-hander Brian Fuentes was placed on the restricted list by the Cardinals in mid-August for undisclosed personal reasons and did not return to St. Louis. Now Fuentes is calling it quits for good.

According to Sean Lynch of the Merced Sun-Star, the 37-year-old reliever has retired from baseball, officially ending a 12-year major league career.

“Ultimately, I was just having trouble with the time away from my family,” explained Fuentes. “I’ve been playing baseball for all of their lives, but I’d never been so far away as when I was in St. Louis. I think at one point I went like two months without seeing them. Coming home and being able to put them to bed at night made me realize what I was missing. … Ultimately you start thinking about what you’re playing for.”

Fuentes will finish up having posted a 3.62 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 613 1/3 career innings. He totaled 204 saves while making stops in Seattle, Colorado, Anaheim, Minnesota, Oakland and ultimately St. Louis.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?