Mariners Sign Japanese Slugger

Ichiro Suzuki, signed Saturday by the Seattle Mariners, isn't worried about the pressure of being the first Japanese position player in major league baseball.

The 27-year-old right fielder, the best hitter in Japan, believes he has the ability to make the transition a success.

"I'm confident, or I wouldn't be sitting here right now," he said after signing a three-year contract.

The team did not disclose the terms of the deal, but the Mariners have agreed to pay Suzuki's former team, the Orix BlueWave, $13 million for the right to negotiate with him.

"The Mariners recognize that Ichiro is one of the very best baseball players in the world," said Howard Lincoln, Seattle's chief executive. "He has tremendous talent and will fit nicely with our team and organization."

Lincoln and five other Mariners executives spent three days negotiating with Suzuki's agent, Tony Attanasio, in Kobe, home of the Orix BlueWave.

Suzuki said that playing with the Mariners during spring training in 1999 helped convince him he wanted to be in the majors.

"Playing with the Mariners is like a dream come true," he said. "It is good to be joining a team that was successful last season and to be a teammate of my friend Sasaki."

Kazuhiro Sasaki, a former star in Japan's Central League, is Seattle's bullpen ace.

Suzuki has won seven straight batting titles with the BlueWave in Japan's Pacific League. He hit .387 last season.

Suzuki was reportedly asking for a contract of more than four years and an annual salary of about dlrs 7.4 million. He was said to have made about dlrs 5.5 million this season.

Several Japanese pitchers, including Sasaki, have gone on to play in the majors. Doubts have remained concerning position players, with questions about their speed and power.

But the Mariners are convinced Suzuki will produce.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed