Ichiro will return for another season with Marlins to chase 3,000 hits

MIAMI — The Miami Marlins announced Tuesday that Ichiro Suzuki will return for a second season with the club.

Suzuki, who turns 42 later this month, stands 65 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. He had 91 hits for the Marlins in 2015 and currently ranks 33rd on the all-time list with Barry Bonds (2,935). Between 15 big-league seasons and nine years in Japan (1,278), Suzuki has compiled 4,213 total hits. He made his major-league debut on April 2, 2001, with the Seattle Mariners.

Additionally, with 498 career stolen bases, he is just two stolen bases shy of becoming only the eighth player in ML history to reach 2,900 hits and 500 stolen bases.

"I say, off the field, Ichiro has been one o the most interesting players I’ve personally come across since I’ve come into this game," president David Samson said. "Forget his love for the game, the fact he’s in the best shape I’ve seen in any age. Forget the fact he’s 41. His desire to play baseball the right way, to be respectful of Major League Baseball, to be respectful of others players and the game itself — the traditions of the game and the example he shows to the other players on both sides of the ball. 

"For us, what Ichiro did is he just brought an interesting dynamic to the clubhouse and to the front office and his ability to communicate with us — his desire to communicate with us was nonstop and all positive. For us, bringing him back was important. Bring him back as a fourth outfielder in the same role. There’s plenty of at-bats for our fourth outfielder given our injury history. You’d like to believe there’s no at-bats, but that’s not real. Baseball you need a productive bench. Having Ichiro productive is an important piece to a playoff team.

"As far as 3,000 hits, we feel the same way Ichiro does. He’s not in this game for 3,000 hits. He’s in this game literally for the love of the game. For us, we’re not going to do anything while he’s hitting, while he’s doing anything. Will we celebrate it when he attains it? Of course, it’s history, just like we celebrated history when Dee (Gordon) was the first player since Jackie Robinson to lead the league in batting average and steals. To celebrate with Ichiro would be an honor."

In parts of 153 games for the Marlins in 2015, Suzuki hit .229 with five doubles, six triples, one homer and 21 RBI. Those were his most appearances since 2012 when he played in all 162.

Signed to a one-year deal last winter as a fourth outfielder, he ended up seeing more playing time because of injuries to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, as well as the demotion of Marcell Ozuna. Over the final month of the season, he batted just .139 (10 for 72). 

Are there any concerns?

"He wasn’t signed to be our everyday right fielder," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I think the injuries — he played probably more than any of us expected him to play. I think there are enough at-bats for him as the extra outfielder. We’ve seen him go through struggles, we saw him go through struggles earlier in the season and he bounced back. He’s a pro. His preparation is unparalleled. It’s amazing how he prepares himself for the game of baseball. He’s a great example for our other young outfielders. Happy to have him back."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.