The cool, rainy Puget Sound weather forced the Mariners to re-adjust their plans with Hisashi Iwakuma. Instead of pitching his first rehab start of the season with Class AAA Tacoma at Cheney Stadium, expected rain forced Iwakuma to settle for pitching another simulated game.
With the roof closed at Safeco Field on Tuesday afternoon, Iwakuma threw 58 pitches in a four-inning simulated game.
The Mariners gave Iwakuma a variety of looks in the simulated game, making him field bunts, cover first base and throw pickoff moves to first, as well as face batters. He faced Willie Bloomquist, Stefen Romero, Logan Morrison and Nick Franklin.
“I was able to focus like a regular game,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I felt a lot better. My feel for the game is coming back gradually. I felt a lot better than the last time when we did the sim game in Miami.
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“The ball jumped out of my hand pretty well today and I feel pretty close to the regular season,” he said.
Iwakuma will join Tacoma this weekend and pitch in Las Vegas on Sunday, with a limit of around 75 pitches.
Manager Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Rick Waits were both impressed with Iwakuma.
“I thought he had better finish to his fastball, better finish to the breaking ball. I thought he was sharp,” McClendon said. “The fastball had that little bump right at the end.”
Could Iwakuma be back after just one rehab start?
“We’ll see,” McClendon said. “But you have to be patient.”
Waits has liked the progression that he’s seen since Iwakuma was cleared to begin throwing back in April after missing six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand.
“I think the main thing is that he’s getting better,” Waits said. “I think the thing I was probably the most impressed with today was in that fourth inning, he still had great arm strength. And that’s the thing I was looking for, that he wasn’t tiring. He threw some very good fastballs in that last inning.
“All four pitches working and as a matter of fact his curveball was really working today. His best pitches are his fastball and split, but I was pretty impressed with his curveball.”
Iwakuma is also dealing with a blister on the inside of his middle finger, an annual rite for him as he throws more and more split-finger fastballs that rub the skin raw from the friction of the pitch.
“This happens all the time at this point in the season,” he said. “I’m not worried. It’s not as bad as what we’ve seen in the past.”
• Morrison did some running before the simulated game today. McClendon said Morrison is getting very close to going out on a rehab assignment to get some game action.
• McClendon said that reliever Stephen Pryor is still trying to increase his velocity to where it needs to be for him to be brought back from Class AAA Tacoma.
• D.J. Peterson, the Mariners’ top pick from last year’s draft, was lifted in the third inning of Monday night’s game for Class A High Desert. According to Chris Gwynn, the Mariners’ director of minor-league operations, Peterson had a tight glute muscle and was pulled for precautionary reasons.
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