Every time Ichiro Suzuki returns to Seattle is a special moment.
The former American League Most Valuable Player’s first visit to Safeco Field in nearly three years begins Monday when Suzuki and the Miami Marlins start a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.
Suzuki, 43, is now a bit player for the Marlins, but he is fondly remembered by Mariners fans for his time as a standout in Seattle. He arrived from Japan in 2001 and won the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his first season. He remained in Seattle through the middle of the 2012 season, compiling 2,533 hits, a .322 batting average and a .366 slugging percentage.
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In his time with the Mariners, Suzuki earned two batting titles, 10 All-Star Game appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.
“Being able to see the fans … I want to be able to show them that I’m still healthy and happy and that I’m still playing,” Suzuki said. “Hopefully, I can show them that.”
Seattle traded Suzuki to the New York Yankees on July 23, 2012, in exchange for right-handed pitchers Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. He played with the Yankees through 2014, numerous times appearing in series at Seattle, then joined the Marlins before the 2015 season.
He reached the 3,000-hit milestone for his U.S. career last summer for Miami, a fact the Marlins will honor on Wednesday. Seattle fans will get a double bobblehead depicting the outfielder in both a Mariners uniform and a Marlins uniform.
“It’s not necessarily what it looked like,” Suzuki said with a smile, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “The Mariners are really good at marketing stuff, so that’s what I thought.”
After striking out as a pinch hitter Sunday in the Marlins’ 4-2 win over the New York Mets, Suzuki is 1-for-21 (.083) on the season.
Miami took the last three games of the four-game series against the Mets, ending with rookie J.T. Riddle’s walk-off, two-run homer in the finale, to create some momentum heading into a nine-game road trip. The Marlins visit San Diego this weekend before heading to Philadelphia.
Tom Kohler (0-0, 3.27 ERA) is set to start the series opener for the Marlins at Seattle. The right-hander tossed six innings of three-run ball in his most recent start, a no-decision against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
A 30-year-old who has spent his entire major league career with Miami, Kohler will be facing the Mariners for the first time.
Seattle is coming off a three-game weekend sweep of the visiting Texas Rangers that was capped by a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth Sunday.
Mariners manager Scott Servais was ejected in the sixth inning before his team bounced back for the win in a game that Texas led 6-1.
“I’m not sure what’s more stressful: the TV monitor or the dugout,” Servais joked.
Left-hander Ariel Miranda (0-1, 5.06 ERA) will start Monday for Seattle. He has no career experience against Miami. Miranda, 28, gave up four runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros last Monday.
Miranda might have to deal with Marlins third baseman Martin Prado, who is expected to come off the disabled list Monday. Prado, out since straining his right hamstring last month in the World Baseball Classic, went 3-for-9 with three walks in four rehab games for high Class A Jupiter last week.