UPDATE2: Ichiro, Kuroda won't play in World Baseball Classic

 
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TOKYO, Nov. 19 (19:47) Kyodo

 
(EDS: ADDING DETAILS IN LAST 2 GRAFS)

Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda confirmed Monday what had
already been brewing in the rumor mill: they will not play for
two-time defending champion Japan in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Outfielder Suzuki and right-hander Kuroda are both free agents
from the New York Yankees, and have yet to sign with anyone for next
season. The two relayed their decision to pull out of the March 2-19
event to Nippon Professional Baseball, which made the announcement
Monday.

"I appreciate being asked to play for Japan again at the WBC,"
Suzuki said. "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."

The 39-year-old Suzuki and the 37-year-old Kuroda are just the
latest players to withdraw from Koji Yamamoto's team.

The Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish, the Seattle Mariners' Hisashi
Iwakuma and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki have all
turned down Yamamoto, citing the need for a full offseason to prepare
for next year.

Kuroda was the Yankees' most dependable starter this year, going
16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in almost 220 innings as the Bombers reached
the American League Championship Series where they were swept by the
Detroit Tigers.

Considering his age and the workload he had this season, Kuroda
said it would have been difficult for him to be in peak form by March.

"When I factored in my age, the number of starts (33) I made and
the innings I pitched this year, it was going to be a stretch for me
to be in the right condition for March," Kuroda said.

"I do feel bad that I won't be able to help out a fellow former
Hiroshima Carp in manager Yamamoto, who I hold in utmost regard," he
added.

Yamamoto had made a strong push for the integral Suzuki who
helped Japan win the title in 2006 and 2009.

Suzuki hit a leadoff homer against the United States in the
second round of the inaugural WBC, and had the game-winning hit in
the 10th inning of the 2009 final against archrival South Korea.

Yamamoto admitted the absence of Suzuki and Kuroda hurts, but
said he had been braced for the possibility and will likely field an
all-NPB team in Japan's quest for a three-peat.

Japan has been grouped with Cuba, China and a team yet to be
determined for the first round at Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka.

"It's extremely disappointing but at the same time, I do
understand their situation and how they feel," Yamamoto said. "I'm
sure it was a difficult decision for both players."

"But we were prepared for something like this, and we have been
going over our options in meetings. We will have a pure domestic team
now, but this has only strengthened my resolve to win a third
straight championship with this group of players," he said.

NPB said Yamamoto and his coaching staff will announce a
provisional list of 33 players next month for a training camp in
Miyazaki in February, before cutting the final squad down to 28.

During camp, Japan will play a pair of exhibitions against
Hiroshima and the Seibu Lions on Feb. 17 and 18, respectively.
 


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