Yuji Kikuchi, the father of new Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, has died at the age of 59, the pitcher said in a statement released by the club on Saturday.

"I learned today that my father, Yuji Kikuchi, passed away following a long and valiant battle with cancer."

"During my recent visit to Japan, my father expressed his desire for me to remain focused on baseball and to help my team win. Although difficult, I will honor his wishes and dedicate the rest of this season to him."

"This statement will be my only comment on this matter, but I will remain available to answer baseball questions beginning tomorrow, Sunday, March 31."

The younger Kikuchi allowed three runs over six innings on Friday. He made his major league debut the week before at Tokyo Dome. He is now 0-0 with a 2.53 ERA.

When he signed with the Mariners in January after nine seasons with the Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League, his father attended the press conference in Seattle.