Some of Japan's biggest baseball stars have said they will not play in the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic, according to Associated Press reports out of Japan.
Ichiro Suzuki, a free agent and likely the country's most famous ballplayer, reiterated previous comments when he told the AP on Monday that he would not play in the tournament next March. Free agent Hiroki Kuroda, who played with Suzuki on the Yankees this past season, will also sit out the Classic.
"I appreciate being asked to play for Japan again at the WBC," Suzuki said on Monday in Tokyo, according to the AP report. "But after the second tournament in 2009, I never considered playing in the third event. My feelings have not changed to this day, and it's where things stand."
Japan won the 2006 and '09 tournaments largely thanks to the now-39-year-old Suzuki. But many of the most high-profile Japanese players -- including Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki -- have also said they won't be participating this time around.
Suzuki, who hit .261 in 95 games with the Mariners this season before he was traded to New York and hit .322 in his final 67 games, drove in the winning run of the 2009 World Baseball Classic finale in Japan's win over South Korea.
The Japanese team will begin its quest for its third title in as many tries when it opens pool play on March 2 in Fukuoka, Japan.
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.