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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Updated: July 12, 10:59 PM ET
Ichiro could make $100M in deal with Mariners news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ichiro Suzuki is closing in on a contract extension with the Seattle Mariners -- and he showed his club why it would want to keep him around for the long haul.

Hit Man

When it comes to 200-hit seasons, Ichiro Suzuki is the king among active players. He leads all active players with six 200-hit seasons and he had an MLB-record 262 hits in 2004.

Most hits, season, active players
Player Hits
Ichiro, 2004 262
Ichiro, 2001 242
Darin Erstad, 2000 240
Ichiro, 2006 224
Michael Young, 2005 221

Suzuki hit the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history Tuesday night, winning MVP honors and helping the American League to a 5-4 victory. His go-ahead, two-run drive off San Diego's Chris Young took a crazy bounce off the right-field wall -- he's never hit one during the regular season.

"It's one that I'll never forget," Suzuki said. "The past six years, I never had an All-Star that I really thought I gave it my all or was able to give it my all. So, I'm really happy. It was a fun All-Star Game."

Meanwhile, multiple media outlets in Seattle are reporting that Suzuki and the Mariners are on the verge of a five-year contract extension. The Seattle Times says that the deal could be worth almost $100 million.

Details on the contract were still being completed Thursday, and Suzuki was to complete a physical examination before the deal became official, according to a team official who requested anonymity because the negotiations weren't complete.

Suzuki's agent, Tony Attanasio, would not confirm a deal.

"We're still talking but we're not at the point where we have anything to announce," he said on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

At the All-Star Game in San Francisco, Suzuki would not say whether the sides were close to a contract.

"Whatever happens, everybody will know in the future, whenever that might be," he said through an interpreter at his locker before taking the field for batting practice. "Maybe three hours from now, maybe after the season. I'm done for today [on the topic].''

Attanasio told the Post-Intelligencer that he was in San Diego, not in Seattle talking to the Mariners.

"And I have appointments [Wednesday] down here, and I'm planning on being here," Attanasio said, according to the P-I. "But that doesn't mean something couldn't happen. If a phone call comes and a deal is out there to be had, then I'm going to get on the next plane."

Suzuki's four-year, $41 million contract ends after this season, and with the Mariners struggling the past couple of years the two-time batting champion had indicated that he may test free agency.

But the M's have rebounded this season. They have a 49-36 record at the All-Star break, and Suzuki has a lot to do with that resurgence. He is batting .359, has 128 hits and has stolen 23 bases in 25 attempts. The seven-time All-Star was making his sixth straight start in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday.

And Suzuki's inside-the-park homer was the talk of the night.

"That was sweet," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "That ball is a double and he turns it into more."

By the sixth inning, Suzuki already had all three hits.

While Barry Bonds was the talk of this All-Star Game, Suzuki's new deal in the works brought him some added attention on the AL side before the game.

Then, the homer became one of the highlights in San Francisco's typically pitcher-friendly park.

"Man, that was fun," AL teammate C.C. Sabathia of the Cleveland Indians said. "It was exciting to see."

Seattle would be excited to see Suzuki stay. His willingness to remain in Seattle also might have become stronger since the abrupt resignation of manager Mike Hargrove on July 1. Hargrove said his "passion has begun to fade."

The relationship between Suzuki and Hargrove was tenuous at times, but both insisted their differences were in the past. Hargrove insisted his decision to step down had nothing to do with any disputes with players or the front office.

The Mariners promoted bench coach John McLaren for the rest of the year. He and Suzuki get along well and developed a strong relationship during Suzuki's rookie year in 2001. Seattle matched a major league record with an AL-best 116 wins that year, and Suzuki was named AL Rookie of the Year and MVP.

This season marks the first time in his professional career -- either with Seattle or the Orix Blue Wave in Japan -- that Suzuki has played in the final season of a contract. In spring training, he sounded ready to test the market and see what his value would be to another team.

"I've played 15 years of professional baseball and I have never filed for free agency. I have never had the choice, to choose for myself which road I want to take," Suzuki said in February. "So if you ask me is it possible that I will go to free agency, yes, it is possible.

"But if you ask me what are my feelings toward it, at this point I cannot express it. I am not even sure myself. But what I can say is my mind is full of having the best season possible."

Suzuki had a club-record 25-game hitting streak in June and hit safely in 55 of his last 59 games before the All-Star break.

On Monday's media session leading into the All-Star Game, Suzuki was reveling in the Mariners' success of late.

"The team is completely different than last year ... the mental state is different and how everyone is taking it is totally different than last year," he said. "There have been seasons in the past where the season would already be over at this point."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.