Japan's Kawasaki only interested in Mariners
Free-agent shortstop wants to play with former teammate Ichiro
Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki aims to make the move to the Major Leagues, and would like to join his countryman and former teammate Ichiro Suzuki in Seattle.
The 30-year-old Kawasaki said at a news conference on Thursday that he is considering making the transition to America, but only if it's with the Mariners. He said he would decline any offers from other clubs.
Kawasaki suggested in the past that he would be willing to accept a Minor League deal and would be flexible in regard to switching positions.
Kawasaki played for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2011 before filing for free agency on Thursday. The left-handed hitter batted .267 with 161 hits in 144 games, while helping the Hawks to their first Japan Series title in eight years as Fukuoka defeated the Chunichi Dragons in a seven-game series.
Kawasaki was drafted by Fukuoka in the fourth round in 2000 and became the club's regular shortstop in 2003. He was a four-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star, earning the honor each season from 2004 to 2007.
Kawasaki has complied a career .294 average with 27 home runs, 369 RBIs and 267 stolen bases in 1,145 games during 11 seasons with Fukuoka.
He teamed up with Ichiro for the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic, both of which Japan won.
Matt Weber is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.