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Fresh from Classic, Suzuki has 2 singles in Cactus League debut

Ichiro Suzuki joined the Seattle Mariners for the first time this spring and showed why he’s so valuable to the team despite rumblings that he was a divisive force in the clubhouse.

The Oakland Athletics, meanwhile, likely will start the season without ace Justin Duchscherer, who has elbow problems.

Fresh off a second World Baseball Classic title with Japan, Suzuki made his Cactus League debut by slapping a pair of singles and scoring a run in a 10-9 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

The eight-time All-Star played five innings and got his first taste of life in the same outfield with Ken Griffey Jr., his idol while playing in Japan. But everyone wanted to know what he thought about comments from former teammates and coaches this spring that Suzuki’s behavior led to bickering by other players.

When asked about those comments, Suzuki felt addressing it was “silly” and said through a translator, “I hate to be wasting time with this kind of thing. I’m surprised at this.”

“We’re all professionals here. Is it at a level where I have to explain to other people the reasons why I do things?” Suzuki said. “We are all professionals. It makes me feel like a mom telling a child, ‘This is why I do things.’ So the problem, once again, is we were still at that level.”

Seattle was expected to contend for a postseason berth last season but instead finished with 101 losses.

Suzuki’s arrival overshadowed Sidney Ponson’s debut with the Royals. The burly right-hander pitched five strong innings before running into trouble in the sixth and giving up four runs in the inning, including a two-run homer by Russell Branyan.

At Phoenix, Duchscherer left a minor league game with elbow pain. The right-hander was making his first game appearance of the spring. He was scheduled to throw 35-40 pitches on the A’s off day, but had to cut the outing short.

“My arm still isn’t right,” Duchscherer told MLB.com. “I was fine warming up, but as soon as I started throwing at game speed, I knew I wasn’t going to last long. It got worse on every pitch. I walked a guy and gave up two singles and a homer and just said, ‘I can’t pitch like this.’ It’s probably the most frustrated I’ve ever been since I started playing baseball.”

General manager Billy Beane, who was not at the game, said Duchscherer’s setback was discouraging.

“Needless to say, this is bad news,” Beane told MLB.com. “I can’t say he’ll definitely (start the season) on the DL, but it’s certainly fair to say that it’s likely under the circumstances.”

The A’s currently have Dallas Braden in line to make the opening-day start in place of Duchscherer.

In other news:

• Astros third baseman Aaron Boone had open heart surgery in California to replace a bicuspid aortic valve. The 36-year-old Boone was diagnosed with a congenital defect in his heart where the valve has two – not the normal three – cusps to manage blood flow. The surgery was performed at Stanford University Medical Center.

• At Tampa, Fla., Yankees manager Joe Girardi said CC Sabathia will pitch the season opener at Baltimore on April 6, and also will throw the first regular-season pitch at the new Yankee Stadium 10 days later against Cleveland.

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