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Published Sep. 15, 2009

TOKYO - The highest praise for Ichiro Suzuki came from none other than Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh.

"Sometimes we forget how difficult it is to accomplish these things amid a baseball schedule which is much tougher in the U.S. than in Japan," Oh said. "It's hard to find the words to describe what he has accomplished."

Oh was among the baseball luminaries, players and fans to hail Ichiro on Monday after the Mariners rightfielder became the first player in major-league history with at least 200 hits in nine straight seasons.

Ichiro set the record with an infield single in the second inning of Sunday's second game against the Rangers. In his second at-bat, he beat out a roller to SS Elvis Andrus to break a tie with Willie Keeler, who had at least 200 hits for eight consecutive seasons (1894-1901).

The mass circulation newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun printed a special edition with the headline "Ichiro breaks major-league record."

It was just six months ago that Ichiro, 35, delivered the winning hit to help Japan defend its title at the World Baseball Classic with a 5-3 win over South Korea. His record-breaking hit against the Rangers added to his status as Japan's greatest athlete.

"Ichiro gives everyone in Japan something to feel proud about," office worker Masahiro Koga said. "He is the ultimate professional."

RODNEY PENALTY EASED: Tigers RH reliever Fernando Rodney, who threw a ball into the press box at Tropicana Field on Sept. 4, had his suspension reduced from three games to two and began serving.

Rodney was suspended for throwing a ball toward the stands in frustration after he hung on for a save in a 4-3 win at the Rays. The ball sailed into the press box. No one was hurt.

"Just emotion ... suspended two games," said Rodney, who added he was fined $3,000.

WORKER BEANED: An unidentified worker at Comerica Park in Detroit was hit in the eye by a ball during batting practice. The Tigers said tests at a hospital showed normal vision in both his eyes.

CARDINALS: RHP John Smoltz skipped his start after he complained of shoulder tendinitis two days earlier. Smoltz, 42, said he felt good enough to pitch but realized it was wise to take precautions.

GIANTS: LHP Randy Johnson pitched a simulated game, taking the mound for the first time since July 5. Johnson, on the disabled list for more than two months with a torn rotator cuff, threw 53 pitches.

ORIOLES: LHP Brian Matusz is being shut down as the team is wary of overextending the rookie in his first professional season. Matusz, 22, who was scheduled to face the Rays on Thursday, pitched 442/3 innings in the majors and 113 in the minors.

TWINS: 1B Justin Morneau and DH Jason Kubel were held out a second straight game with injuries. Kubel was scratched with a sore neck, and Morneau has a strained lower back stemming from a head-first slide into first base Friday.

YANKEES: OF Freddy Guzman was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to audition as a possible pinch-runner in the postseason.