Iwakuma likely won't return until the middle of the June at the earliest.
TORONTO — The return to health of the Mariners’ starting rotation won’t be happening in the near future. On Saturday morning, the team announced that Hisashi Iwakuma — the fourth starting pitcher of their projected rotation to be placed on the disabled list — would be out four to six weeks with right-shoulder inflammation.
“I’m optimistic and hoping it’s more to the four-week side of things,” manager Scott Servais said. “But you never know and you can’t get out ahead of things. It’s kind of surprising. I wasn’t expecting it to be that long. Our doctors looked at him and felt that it was probably best to put that time frame on him. Again, I’m looking on the shorter side of that.”
Iwakuma was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday in Philadelphia after shoulder discomfort wouldn’t allow him to make his scheduled start Thursday in Toronto. He returned to Seattle to undergo an MRI and other tests and meet with team orthopedist Dr. Edward Khalfayan. The initial diagnosis of shoulder inflammation was confirmed and a timetable for a return was set. Iwakuma said the shoulder didn’t feel right in his last two starts.
“I was aware of it,” Servais said. “Anyone who has pitched as long as Kuma has is going to have some issues and wear and tear. He’s logged a lot of innings.”
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It was another gut punch for a Mariners team trying to survive massive injury issues to their roster and specifically their rotation. With Iwakuma not returning to the rotation till mid-June at the earliest, it means that only left-hander James Paxton (forearm strain) is likely to return before June 1. Paxton began playing catch on Friday and the hope is he will return during the Mariners’ road trip in the final week of May.
“It’s challenging,” Servais said. “It’s not something you can ever plan for. But Toronto is having to go through a similar thing — they’ve got two or three guys out of their rotation. It does happen. You’re hoping you can somehow stay afloat until everybody does get healthy.”
There was some hope that right-hander Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) could return in the next week to 10 days. However, Hernandez felt “so-so” after playing catch twice during his recovery. He was shut down from throwing for a few days. The Mariners’ stalwart was placed on the disabled list April 26 and was expected to miss three to four weeks. But the minor setback will likely delay his progression and his return into June.
Left-hander Drew Smyly (strained flexor) hasn’t been cleared to throw. And isn’t expected to begin throwing for a few more weeks, meaning he would likely return in July.
Of the projected starting pitchers for the 2017 rotation only veteran right-hander Yovani Gallardo remains. The Mariners are currently trying to piece together their rotation with Gallardo, lefty Ariel Miranda and a series of call-ups and youngsters with minimal big-league experience.