Hisashi Iwakuma looks forward to his first start of the season
After months of rehab that included simulating a throwing motion with a towel, tossing a tennis ball against a wall and a lengthy throwing program to get him back to 100 percent, Hisashi Iwakuma will finally step on a major-league mound this season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
HOUSTON — After months of rehab that included simulating a throwing motion with a towel, tossing a tennis ball against a wall and a lengthy throwing program to get him back to 100 percent, Hisashi Iwakuma will finally step on a major-league mound this season.
As expected, the Mariners officially announced Friday that the All-Star right-hander would start Saturday afternoon’s game against the Houston Astros.
“I look forward to tomorrow,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It’s been a long wait. I’ve always wanted to be part of the team soon and contribute, so that said, it’s a very exciting day for me.”
For Iwakuma, it has been a frustrating recovery after suffering a torn tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand in an offseason workout accident. The injury shut him down for the first six weeks of spring training, not allowing him to throw a ball. Once he was able to throw, the team was very careful with his recovery. But he understood the process and why it was so deliberate.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “I’ve never been in this kind of situation before, but at the same time you don’t want to lose your focus. You want to take it one step at a time. To be back at this stage, I’m happy that I’m here today and starting again.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he’d have Iwakuma on a limit of around 100 pitches. With Iwakuma’s efficiency, the hope is that he will give them six to seven innings.
“He’s a strike-thrower,” McClendon said. “Anything can happen at any time, but I don’t foresee it as being a problem.”
Iwakuma feels ready to pitch. But he knows the circumstances are not normal. He just doesn’t have the game innings built up because of the injury.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “I feel strong in general, but the reality is I’ve only had one rehab start. So I’m obviously not 100 percent, but I’m good to go for a game.”
But Iwakuma not quite at 100 percent is still a big addition to the Mariners’ rotation.
“Anytime you can go back-to-back All-Star pitchers in your rotation — that’s pretty good,” McClendon said. “Obviously that’s going to be a big lift for us.”
• Pitchers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are still just playing catch. McClendon said the hope is that both will begin throwing bullpen sessions next week. McClendon did say that Walker is a little ahead of Paxton.
• Outfielder Logan Morrison (hamstring) still hasn’t started running yet and is nowhere near ready to return.
• Pitcher Blake Beavan (shoulder tendinitis) has not been cleared to resume throwing.