65 hits shy of 3,000, Ichiro to return with Marlins

65 hits shy of 3,000, Ichiro to return with Marlins

MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki's quest to achieve more MLB milestones will continue in Miami. The Marlins announced on Tuesday that the iconic outfielder, who is 65 hits shy of 3,000, has signed for 2016.

Ichiro, who turns 42 on Oct. 22, will be entering his 16th big league season and his second with the Marlins. The 10-time All-Star has agreed to come back as the team's fourth outfielder.

When Ichiro originally signed with Miami in January, the club made it clear that it was open to bringing him back. The left-handed hitting outfielder had mutual interest to return, repeatedly stating how much he enjoyed playing for the organization and the relationships he built with his teammates.

"Off the field, I'd have to say Ichiro is one of the most interesting players that I've personally come across since I've been in this game," Marlins president David Samson said. "Forget his love of the game, the fact that he's in the best shape of any player I've seen at any age. Forget the fact that he's 41, his desire to play baseball the right way. To be respectful of Major League Baseball, to be respectful for the other players, and the game itself."

Although his role was to be the Marlins' backup outfielder, Ichiro ended up pacing the club in games played -- 153. Ichiro even stole the show in Sunday's season-finale, pitching the eighth inning of a game Miami lost 7-2 to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Ichiro gets the itch to pitch

"Both teams were paying attention, which doesn't always happen," Samson said. "For us, what Ichiro did, he brought an interesting dynamic to the clubhouse, and to the front office. His ability to communicate with us, and his desire to communicate with us, was non-stop."

Ichiro finished with a .229 average (91-for-398), one home run, five doubles and six triples.

A career .314 hitter, Ichiro's pursuit of 3,000 hits will be closely watched. He is tied with Barry Bonds for 33rd place on MLB's all-time hit list.

Counting his nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro has 4,213 professional hits.

Injuries to Christian Yelich early in the season and Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the season, coupled with Marcell Ozuna being optioned to Triple-A on July 4, created more playing time for Ichiro than was expected in 2015.

Although his batting average was .139 (10-for-72) after Aug. 31, the Marlins don't believe his overall game is in decline.

"He wasn't signed to be our everyday right fielder," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I think there are enough at-bats for him as the extra outfielder."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.