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Mariners' Ichiro still beloved in homeland

TOKYO — Ichiro Suzuki was the main attraction in the Mariners' 5-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

Ichiro, who went 1-for-4, drew huge cheers from the crowd of 42,139 when he hit a single down the leftfield line in the top of the first inning.

"I felt a lot of tension, so that was quite a moment," Ichiro, 38, said of his hit in the first inning. "It didn't feel like an exhibition game, and there was a different atmosphere."

Ichiro grounded out in his next three at-bats, but the near-capacity crowd on hand didn't seem to mind.

"Ichiro has been on a different level for all these years and when you saw those flashbulbs going off when he came up to bat in the first inning, that says it all," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.

The Mariners are in Japan to open the season against the Athletics on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hanshin scored three in the second against Seattle starter Hector Noesi, who took the loss.

In the other exhibition game, Oakland beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-0 on Kurt Suzuki's two-run homer in the seventh and Tommy Milone's five shutout innings.

BOSOX RELIEVER SORRY: Red Sox right-hander Bobby Jenks apologized for "distractions" caused by his arrest in Fort Myers on charges of driving under the influence. In a statement, Jenks said he was embarrassed and apologized to his teammates and the organization. He said he will not comment further.

Jenks, 31, posted a 6.32 ERA in 19 games in his first season with Boston after signing a two-year, $12 million free agent deal. He was expected to miss much of this season after a second offseason back surgery.

In other Red Sox news, right-hander Daniel Bard continued to struggle in his bid for the starting rotation, allowing five runs and six hits in six innings in a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays.

BREWERS: Right-hander Shaun Marcum pitched three scoreless innings in his spring debut, a 7-1 win over the Dodgers. Marcum had been slowed by a sore pitching shoulder.

CARDINALS: Utility infielder Alex Cora, who agreed Feb. 6 to a minor-league contract, was released.

METS: Third baseman David Wright, out all spring with a small abdominal muscle tear, described himself as "50-50" to play today against the Cardinals after taking live batting practice against two minor-leaguers.

RANGERS: Right-hander Neftali Feliz, who has been sidelined by tightness in his pitching shoulder, reported no problems after a 40-pitch bullpen session and was cleared to return to live action Tuesday. … Japanese rookie right-hander Yu Darvish gave up four runs and six hits in five innings in an intrasquad game. Darvish struck out 11.

ROYALS: Second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who held the starting job for the last two months of the 2011 season, was demoted to Triple-A Omaha. Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt appear likely to platoon at second base. The club also traded outfielder Greg Golson to the White Sox for cash.

TIGERS: Right-hander Justin Verlander overcame a rocky first and pitched six solid innings in a 6-3 win over the Phillies. The 2011 AL Cy Young winner and MVP allowed four hits and two runs to the first five Phillies then retired 15 of the next 18.

TWINS: Manager Ron Gardenhire said Josh Willingham would be the regular leftfielder this season. Willingham, signed over the winter, had been projected as a rightfielder.

Mariners' Ichiro still beloved in homeland 03/25/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 25, 2012 8:26pm]
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