Ichiro, M’s closing in on contract

The deal may be worth close to $100 million over five years.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ichiro Suzuki is closing in on a contract extension with the Seattle Mariners.

“We’re still talking but we’re not at the point where we have anything to announce,” Suzuki’s agent, Tony Attanasio, said Tuesday.

Suzuki, started in center field and batted leadoff for the American League in Tuesday night’s All-Star game, would not say when a deal might be reached. The Mariners had no comment.

“Whatever happens, everybody will know in the future, whenever that might be,” Suzuki said through an interpreter before batting practice. “Maybe three hours from now, maybe after the season. I’m done for today [on the topic].”

The Seattle Times reported on its Web site Tuesday that the extension could pay the two-time AL batting champion and 2001 AL MVP close to $100 million over five years.

“Much dinero,” said Suzuki’s AL teammate, Victor Martinez. “Lots of money.”

Final year

The 33-year-old Suzuki is in the final year of a $41 million, four-year contract. The seven-time All-Star said during spring training that he planned to test his value on the free agent market this winter.

But he has changed his stance in recent weeks, certainly in part because the Mariners are playing well. They put together a strong and surprising first half, entering the All-Star break with a 49-36 record and just 21⁄2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

Suzuki is hitting .359 with 61 runs, 128 hits, 39 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases in 25 attempts.

Suzuki set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004. He has gotten at least 200 hits in each of his first six years in the majors.

His willingness to stay in Seattle also might have become stronger since the abrupt resignation of manager Mike Hargrove on July 1. Hargrove said his “passion has begun to fade.”

The relationship between Suzuki and Hargrove was tenuous at times, but both insisted their differences were in the past. Hargrove insisted his decision to step down had nothing to do with any disputes with players or the front office.

The Mariners promoted bench coach John McLaren for the rest of the year. He and Suzuki get along well and developed a strong relationship during Suzuki’s rookie year in 2001. Seattle matched a major league record with an AL-best 116 wins that year, and Suzuki was named AL Rookie of the Year and MVP.

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