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Friday, July 13
Updated: July 14, 4:52 PM ET
Pair boycotting Japanese media

Associated Press

Kazu Sasaki


SEATTLE -- All-Stars Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki are fed up with the Japanese media covering their play with the Seattle Mariners.

The two players from Japan issued a joint statement Thursday saying they will not talk to the Japanese press corps until further notice.

"Their position is that it's important their privacy away from the ballpark be respected," said Tim Hevly, director of media relations for the Mariners. "And until such time they feel the Japanese media gives them that respect, they will be unable to speak with Japanese media."

The players will continue to take questions from members of the U.S. media, Hevly said.

Suzuki wouldn't talk about the issue Friday before the Mariners played the San Francisco Giants at Safeco Field, saying: "I don't have anything to say. That subject no."

Sasaki said he and Suzuki consider the Japanese media as one.

"It is unfortunate for those who are just covering baseball," Sasaki said. "It's difficult to play baseball in the states and after you go home from the ballpark there are these other problems. It's very important that we do this."

Hevly wouldn't specify what sparked the players to issue the statement -- just that there had been recent problems away from the field with unidentified Japanese journalists.

The Mariners returned from a 10-game road trip Sunday night, and Suzuki and Sasaki played in Tuesday's All-Star game at Safeco Field -- the first All-Star selection for both. They were two of eight Mariners in the game.

Suzuki, the first rookie to be the top All-Star vote-getter, got a hit off Randy Johnson in the first inning, then stole second. Sasaki pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn the save as the American League won 4-1.

The two were swarmed by media throughout the All-Star festivities.

About 40 Japanese journalists cover the Mariners full-time, but the number has been much higher for some games and for Seattle's spring training in Peoria, Ariz.

They write about the players' every move, recording anything from what they eat to what they wear to how they spend their time after games.

Suzuki, 27, the first Japanese position player in the majors to be in the lineup every day, has at times dressed in the training room to avoid the media, or opted to lift weights after games to put off the press. He typically faces into his locker after games, forcing reporters to talk to the back of his head.

Mariners manager Lou Piniella said Friday that Suzuki is under much more scrutiny than other players.

"I think what needs to be said is that players need their privacy and at the same time they need to prepare for baseball games, too," Piniella said.

Members of the Japanese media were not discussing the issue Friday.

On Thursday, Gaku Tashiro of Sankei Sports told The Seattle Times that Japanese teams have had problems with media pushing too far into players' lives off the field, but the teams there haven't taken this drastic of a step.

The Mariners said they are "in complete support" of the players.

"I do not believe it was any of our regular newspaper reporters," Tashiro said. "It sounds like something some of the Japanese magazines do. This will make it very difficult on us to do our jobs."

Near the beginning of the season, Suzuki expressed that he already was growing tired of all the attention.

"Sometimes I feel enamored by it, but most of the time it is bothersome," he said.

Seattle's leadoff hitter and right fielder is a seven-time batting champion in his homeland who signed with Seattle in the off-season. Sasaki is a second-year relief pitcher who was AL Rookie of the Year in 2000.

"Once they're comfortable that the media is respecting their time away from the park, they will be happy to go back to talking to the Japanese media," Hevly said.

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