MESA, Ariz. (AP) - An oblique injury will keep Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki out of the World Baseball Classic. It also jeopardizes his status for opening day with the Chicago Cubs.
Cubs manager David Ross said Tuesday that the Suzuki suffered a "moderate" strain to his left oblique while swinging during batting practice over the weekend. Suzuki was on Japan's roster for the 2017 WBC and played on Japan's gold-medal team in the one-year delayed Tokyo Olympics.
"It's really unfortunate that it had to come down to this decision," Suzuki said on Tuesday through an interpreter. "I know a lot of people were excited to see me out there playing."
Ross said there's still hope that the 28-year-old Suzuki can be ready for the Cubs' regular season opener against the Brewers on March 30. But he also said the team wouldn't rush his return.
"The goal for us is that when he's back, we don't lose him again," Ross said. "So pushing toward some date that we all look forward to doesn't make a lot of sense. We want him to get back completely healthy.
"If that's opening day - great. If it's five days in - great. If it's two weeks - fine."
Suzuki hit .262 with 14 homers, 46 RBIs and nine stolen bases for the Cubs in his first big league season last year. The outfielder said the team was waiting for the injury's inflammation to subside before deciding the next steps in his recovery.
"We'll put a plan in place, react to how he's feeling, let him build back up," Ross said.
Japan opens the WBC on March 9 at the Tokyo Dome against China. Suzuki said he was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to represent his country and was sorry he had to back out at the last minute.
He said he'll remain Japan's biggest fan even if he can't participate.
"Yes, I'm going to watch and cheer them on," Suzuki said.
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