Baseball-Japan's Ichiro 'depressed' at WBC slump

TOKYO, March 6 Fri Mar 6, 2009 1:24am EST

TOKYO, March 6 (Reuters) - Japan's Ichiro Suzuki has admitted he is depressed about his batting slump at the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Japan began the defence of their WBC title with an easy 4-0 win over China in the opening Asian preliminary game on Thursday, but Suzuki's woes at the plate continued.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder saw his hitless streak stretch to 16 at-bats, including Japan's warm-up games, as he went 0-for-5 against China at Tokyo Dome.

"It's depressing," Suzuki told Japanese media on Friday. "After the game I got picked for a doping test -- things are going from bad to worse."

Suzuki, who triggered an explosion of camera flashes each time he strode out to bat, finally emerged after being randomly selected by doping control officials close to midnight.

"I'm trying to force things," said the 35-year-old. "I'm trying too hard to hit the ball and rushing things. Obviously it's irritating. If I wasn't getting frustrated I'd quit baseball."

Suzuki was a key member of Japan's surprise win at the inaugural WBC in 2006, along with Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was named the tournament's MVP.

Both players missed out on last year's Beijing Olympics, where Japan failed to win a medal after losing in the semi-finals to eventual champions South Korea.

The Koreans were playing Taiwan in their opening Pool A game later on Friday. Both South Korea and Japan are expected to reach the second round of the 16-team competition with ease.

The second round takes place in the United States. (Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Track China's Leaders