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OC Register: Ichiro Suzuki’s new job spoils hopes for matchup with Angels’ Shohei Ohtani

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ANAHEIM — The matchup of every Japanese fan’s dreams is not going to happen this weekend.

A day before the Angels were to open a series in Seattle, and four days before the day that Shohei Ohtani could start against the Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki accepted a front-office job with the Mariners for the rest of the season.

Although there was some speculation that Suzuki might retire after the weekend, which could have set up the perfect matchup with him against Ohtani in his final game, the Mariners scuttled that possibility by taking Suzuki off the active roster on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Ohtani, who grew up idolizing the 44-year-old Suzuki, said in a statement he was disappointed.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for him, what he has done for this game, our country and the fans,” Ohtani said. “Sure I wish we could have played against him but wasn’t meant to be. I wish nothing but the best for him moving forward.”

They still could meet. Suzuki is not retiring, only taking off the rest of this season.

Manager Mike Scioscia had seen enough of Suzuki. His 277 hits against the Angels are the most by any player during Scioscia’s tenure.

“I was getting a little tired of him running and scoring so many runs against us,” Scioscia said, referring to Suzuki’s prime with the AL West rival Mariners. “We all appreciate his immense talent. He certainly beat up on us his share, but everybody respects him as a player and what he did. He played the game the right way.”

Suzuki was the American League MVP and rookie of the year in 2001, the same year that Albert Pujols won the NL rookie of the year. Although the two played in different leagues for most of their careers, they faced off annually in the All-Star Game.

Pujols said he remembered Suzuki robbing him of hits with diving catches in the 2003 and 2010 All-Star Games.

“I’m just happy and blessed to say I took the field and played against a legend,” Pujols said. “As soon as he retires, he’s going to be a legend and a Hall of Famer.”

Garrett Richards said Suzuki played a special part of his big-league career. He was the first hitter Richards ever faced in a major-league spring training game, in 2010.

“First batter of the game, he hit a chopper back to me,” Richards said. “It popped out of my glove just to my right. I picked it up and he was already through the bag. Then he stole second, stole third. Then I threw a slider in the dirt that kind of went to the side and he came home and scored.”


Richards, who is starting on Friday night in Seattle, said he’s optimistic he and pitching coach Charlie Nagy solved some issues with his delivery since the nine-run nightmare he endured the last time out, against the New York Yankees.

“We watched some video and we spent some time simplifying my delivery and making it easier to repeat,” Richards said. “It’s just a couple minor things here and there. Mostly my rhythm and tempo of my delivery.”

Richards said he’s also trying to turn down the effort just a notch, which should help with control. He’s walked 6.2 batters per nine innings so far this year, well above his average of 3.2 coming into the season.

Richards said he still feels fine physically. Injuries have limited him to six games each of the past two seasons. This will be his seventh start.


Tyler Skaggs will follow Richards in the rotation, pitching on Saturday. That leaves Sunday as TBA. Ohtani is scheduled to have a full bullpen session on Friday. If that goes well, he could pitch on Sunday. …

Matt Shoemaker (strained forearm) is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session since going on the disabled list on Friday, Scioscia said. …

Blake Wood (elbow impingement) said he’s hoping to get on a mound in the next few days. He is expecting to then pitch at least one game in the minor leagues. If all goes perfectly, he could return in about a week. …

Keynan Middleton (elbow inflammation) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session sometime this weekend, Scioscia said. …

Zack Cozart was out of the lineup on Thursday because of back tightness. Scioscia said he will play on Friday. …

Infielder Ryan Schimpf was optioned to make room for Jaime Barría, who was promoted to start on Thursday. The move left the Angels with eight relievers and five starters on the roster.


Angels (Garrett Richards, 3-1, 4.88) at Mariners (Mike Leake, 3-2, 6.48), Friday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (830 AM)

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