New Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi a 'building block' as team shifts focus to future

New Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi a 'building block' as team shifts focus to future (PHOTO: KOMO News)

SEATTLE – On Thursday, the Seattle Mariners officially signed and welcomed left-handed Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi to Seattle.

“I’m very excited,” said Kikuchi, in front of a crowded room at T-Mobile Park. “And I’m very happy to be here. And I thank the people who have supported me.”

Kikuchi spoke in English and stressed how important it was for him to learn the language ahead of signing with a MLB team.

The Mariners signed the 27-year-old to a contract running through 2021 with options through 2025.

“Yusei’s combination of character, talent, experience and relative age made him a primary target in our roster building plans,” said Jerry Dipoto, Mariners General Manager.

Dipoto said the potential of landing Kikuchi was part of his pitch when he confronted Mariners ownership about his off-season agenda.

“He was a building block in our minds then, and the fact that we’ve reached this point today is exciting for everyone,” said Dipoto.

Kikuchi posted a 69-45 mark with a 2.69 ERA over seven seasons with the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan’s Pacific League.

Kikuchi’s signing comes after the Mariners cut ties with a string of veterans, including infielder Robinson Cano, slugger Nelson Cruz, pitcher James Paxton, infielder Jean Segura, catcher Mike Zunino and closer Edwin Diaz.

“The 2019 season for us is - I don’t want to say solely, but a large focus this year is - on what we’ll be able to do by mid-season 2020,” said Dipoto. “And how this roster comes together and that will remain our focus.”

Dipoto said the moves were made to better position the club for a World Series championship.

“Our goal isn’t to figure out how to win the second wildcard. We want to be a sustained winning club, and we feel that this is the best avenue and we feel like we’re going to be a fun team to watch grow.”

The Mariners will open the 2020 season in Tokyo with a two-game series against the Oakland A’s.

Seattle’s home-opener at T-Mobile Park will be on March 28 against the reigning World Series champions, Boston Red Sox.

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