BC-BBA--Mariners-Ichiro Starts, 1st Ld-Writethru,292

Ichiro gets the start in what could be his last MLB game

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Ichiro Suzuki is in the starting lineup for the Mariners against the Oakland Athletics in what might be his last game in the majors. Ichiro started in the first game in Tokyo and was hitless. The future of the 45-year-old Ichiro is unclear with many believing he will retire after the Japan series.

By STEPHEN WADE

AP Sports Writer

TOKYO (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki is in the starting lineup for the Mariners against the Oakland Athletics in what might be his last game in the majors.

Seattle manager Scott Servais had earlier hinted that, after Ichiro started in a season-opening victory against the A's on Wednesday, he might not start on Thursday in the final game of the brief series that opens the Major League Baseball season.

"I wasn't quite sure," Servais said. "I thought we'd give him the opportunity to go out there. And I'd love to see him get a couple of hits and finish on a high note here. I want to do the right thing."

The future of 45-year-old Ichiro is unclear. Many expect him to retire after the Japan series, or when the Mariners return home for two spring training games with the San Diego Padres before the regular season resumes against the Boston Red Sox.

Ichiro has had a difficult spring, finding it hard to rebound after stepping aside almost a year ago to become a Mariners' front-office assistant.

He was 2-for-25 in spring training games, and then 0-for-6 in two exhibition games in Japan this week against the Tokyo Giants. The Japan exhibitions do not count as official games. If they did, Ichiro would be hitting .065.

He has 3,089 hits since joining the Mariners in 2001, and another 1,278 playing earlier in Japan — baseball's all-time hits leader.

He was 0-for-1 with a walk and a pop out to second base in the 9-7 win over the A's on Wednesday

A sellout of 45,000 is expected again on Thursday to watch Ichiro and Mariners rookie pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who is making his first start in the majors.

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