TOKYO – Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, a special adviser to the national team, says he accepts that Japan may have to defend its title at next year’s World Baseball Classic without star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Ichiro, who was instrumental in helping Japan win the WBC in 2006 and 2009, is reportedly considering sitting out the 2013 event, joining fellow Japanese major leaguers Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki on the sidelines.
“It’s out of our hands,” Oh was quoted saying Friday after Japan beat WBC first-round opponent Cuba 2-0 in an exhibition game. “He played a huge part in the first two tournaments. Nothing is decided yet but I want him to be able to clearly decide the next step in his career.”
Oh managed the Japanese squad that won the inaugural WBC in 2006.
Japanese baseball officials invited the 39-year-old Ichiro to join the 2013 team, but don’t expect a response until he knows where he will play in the majors next season.
Ichiro, a free agent, was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees in July.
Ichiro hit .322 in 67 games for the Yankees and was one of the team’s most consistent hitters.