Major League Baseball
Oakland manager Melvin excited about Japan series
Major League Baseball

Oakland manager Melvin excited about Japan series

Published Jan. 16, 2012 8:44 a.m. ET

With or without Hideki Matsui, Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin is looking forward to opening Major League Baseball's 2012 season in Japan.

The Athletics and Seattle Mariners open the regular season with a two-game series at Tokyo Dome on March 28-29. Many hoped the series would feature a showdown between Matsui and countryman Ichiro Suzuki, but Melvin said the A's likely wont be re-signing the 37-year-old free agent Matsui.

''Matsui was a great fit for us last year and we all loved having him on our team,'' Melvin said at a press conference on Monday to promote the series. ''But this year it doesn't look like a fit for us based on the personnel we have going forward.''

In his first season with Oakland last year, Matsui hit a career-worst .251 with only 12 homers and 72 RBIs in 141 games. Where he'll play in 2012 is a major story in Japan with speculation on everything from a return to the New York Yankees, a return to Japanese professional baseball or even retirement.


Seattle and Oakland had been scheduled to play here in March 2003 when Melvin managed the Mariners, but the series was scrapped because of the threat of war in Iraq. The A's will be the home team in both games this time around.

The teams will leave their spring training homes in Arizona on March 22 and return to Arizona on March 30. They will play preseason games against the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers of Japanese professional baseball on March 25 and 26.

This will be the fourth Japan opener, following the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs (2000), the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay (2004), and Boston and Oakland (2008).

''I'm looking forward to seeing the overall environment here,'' Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. ''How the fans interact, the discipline and everything that goes along with that. I'm just looking forward to playing some good baseball over here.''

''In 2003, I was supposed to be here in charge of Eric's team,'' Melvin said. ''But we couldn't make it, so being able to come and play the Mariners is really special for us and I'm really looking forward to the series.''

MLB and the players' association said the series also will aim to assist rebuilding in Japan following last year's earthquake.

Suzuki also had a down season in 2011. For the first time in his career, He failed to reach 200 hits - finishing with 184 - and hit a career-worst .272. Other numbers were lower too, including on-base percentage, infield hits and home runs, while he struck out a career-high 69 times.

Former Seattle star Ken Griffey Jr., who now serves as a special consultant to the Mariners, said he expects Suzuki to bounce back this season.

''Ichiro is going to be fine, you can ask these two guys (Melvin, Wedge) if a guy had 184 hits they wouldn't be complaining,'' Griffey said. ''But you are looking at a guy who is a special athlete. He had one hiccup in his career and come this time next year we won't even be talking about this. He is going to come into this season determined and with a little fire.''


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