Ichiro, Kuroda won't play in World Baseball Classic

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- 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.
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've been difficult for him to be in peak form by March.
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.

(Read full story on The Mainichi)