Ageless Ichiro has pinch-hit record in sights

Ageless Ichiro has pinch-hit record in sights

MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki said earlier this season he wants to play until he's 50. Now, as the 43-year-old's 17th season comes to a close, he says he wants to play until he's "at least 50."

The Marlins haven't indicated whether they'll exercise Ichiro's $2 million club option for 2018, partly because the team's sale to the group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, a former teammate of Ichiro, hasn't been finalized. But the future Hall of Famer would like to stay in Miami.

"There's no reason not to be back here," Ichiro said.

No position player has ever played regularly past the half-century mark. Julio Franco played into his mid-to-late 40s, playing his final game at 49.

But if anyone can defy the laws of aging, it's Ichiro. He hasn't slowed down much, and he doesn't intend to.

Baseball's oldest position player -- and second-oldest player to Bartolo Colon -- entered Friday hitting .313 in the second half, and .260 in 192 at-bats this year. He's also swatted three home runs, his most since hitting seven in 2013.

Largely a pinch-hitter thanks to the health of Miami's three starting outfielders, Ichiro is also on the heels of John Vander Wal's single-season pinch-hit record of 28 in 1995.

Ichiro entered Friday with 27 pinch-hits, and he will likely get three chances this weekend. Marlins manager Don Mattingly started Tyler Moore in left field Friday against the Braves specifically for that reason.

"I just wanna give him a shot," Mattingly said.

Mattingly is convinced there's more gas in Ichiro's tank.

"He could definitely play more than he's played this year," Mattingly said. "He's an amazing guy. For him to play three days a week, I think, is something conceivable."

While a pinch-hitting record wouldn't rank nearly as high as 3,000 hits, a batting title or an MVP trophy on his list of achievements, Ichiro still considers it a great opportunity.

"Baseball players in general are judged by their numbers and what is left behind when you leave this game," he said. "We're trying to do something and leave a mark on the game. I have an opportunity now to do something that can leave something behind. I think it's a great opportunity."

Patrick Pinak is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.