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Ichiro will start in right field for Mariners in Japan Series

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The Mariners and Athletics are in Japan right now in the runup to this week’s two-game regular season series in the Tokyo Dome. The clubs have been playing exhibitions against Japanese teams prior to Wednesday and Thursday’s official contests.

As you likely know, Ichiro — who kinda but not really retired last season — went to camp with the Mariners this year and is on their roster. The unstated but assumed idea is that he will play the two games in Tokyo and then retire, having given a fitting sendoff from both the fans from his native country and the fans for the team with which he had his greatest triumphs in one fell swoop. It’d be hard to script that any better.

Part of that script is going to plan: Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed today Ichiro Suzuki will be in the starting lineup against the Athletics, likely starting in right field. That’ll be a good reason to wake up at 5:30AM and watch the Japan Series games on ESPN this week.

I wonder, though, what might happen if he rakes in those two games. He, as always, has played it close to the vest, so we don’t know his intentions, but the Mariners, as you know, aren’t going anywhere this year as they rebuild. So it’s not like even a 45-year-old Ichiro would be a drag on their 2019 prospects if he, in fact, wants to play some more.

Can he play? I dunno. Based on what we saw of him last year and the year before, the bat just isn’t there anymore. But based on (a) his physical conditioning; and (b) his arm, it’s not necessarily the case that he’s completely done. I mean, check out this highlight from today’s exhibition game. The guy still has quite the hose:

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.