Both pitchers hope to help the Mariners in the final month of the season if not sooner.
Regardless of their performances prior to their respective injuries that landed them on the disabled list, the possible return of either Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma or both to the Mariners’ rotation would be welcome addition. It’s a unit that has been hampered by injuries, lack of production and turnover. They would also be helpful in Seattle’s push for a spot in the postseason.
To be clear, neither pitcher is returning in the coming days. And it’s not unfair to have a less than optimistic prognosis that neither would pitch again this season.
But they both believe they will return.
Hernandez went on the disabled list on Saturday for the second time this season with bursitis in his shoulder. He was placed on the disabled list on April 26 following a start in Detroit. He wouldn’t return until June 22.
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“The last time it was in the back of my shoulder,” he said. “This time it’s in the front. They say it’s the same bursitis. I’m not a doctor. I just tell them what I feel.”
And he feels like this discomfort isn’t nearly as bad as the first time.
“They said three to four weeks, but I don’t think so,” he said. “I can probably come back earlier. I just have to be careful not to rush it because of what could happen. They said it’s more inflamed than last time, but I feel better than last time. I don’t understand it.”
Hernandez recalled the days leading up to this DL appearance.
“I felt fine before the last start in Texas,” he said. “The day I pitched in Texas I felt good. The next day I felt a little something in my shoulder. But I was fine before that. I was actually feeling really good.”
That something in the shoulder didn’t feel any better when he tried to play catch.
“The next day in Texas, I was like, ‘what is going on with my shoulder?'” he said. “I told them I can’t throw a bullpen.”
After examinations and tests from Dr. Edward Khalfayan, he received a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection into the shoulder to speed up the healing process.
“I’m just hoping everything is good,” he said. “I’m doing my treatment and waiting a few more days to see if I can play catch.”
Hernandez is known to be a bit dour when he’s on the disabled list and is not a fan of discussing his health. But he was in a good mood on Thursday with the team back in town. That wasn’t the case when the injury first occurred.
“I was so pissed,” he said. “I’m still pissed. I’m trying to calm myself down and, you know, smile to hide what I feel inside. I’m just focused on getting healthy and help this team get to the promised land.”
There was a belief that Iwakuma wouldn’t return this season after experiencing multiple setbacks in his return from the shoulder inflammation that landed him on the DL on May 10. And he still may not. But he’s going to keep working to do so. While the Mariners were on the road, Iwakuma threw three shorter bullpen sessions — a major step back to being ready.
The plan is for him to throw an extended bullpen on Friday. If he comes out of that healthy, Iwakuma would throw a simulated game next week. If that went well, he would head out on a rehab stint of at least two to three starts. If those went well, he might return to the rotation. Obviously, that’s a lot of if’s that must go right to see him return.
“It is tough to be be honest,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It is what it is. It’s been a long process.But you have to go through your steps and go in the right direction and hopefully I will come back soon. The team is playing very well and you do have a strong feeling of wanting to help right now.”
After receiving some injections and getting shut down from his throwing program for a week in July, Iwakuma hasn’t had any issues.
“Better arm speed, better arm action, getting my mechanics and my delivery to where I want to where it’s stress free on the shoulder,” he said. “As long as my mechanics are good, as long as I’m not flying open, I don’t feel anything. But when I do start flying open, I do feel tightness. That’s what I’m working on right now.”
Mitch Haniger (facial laceration) participated in the pregame workout on Thursday, including taking batting practice on the field. He could go on a rehab assignment by next week. It could be a prolonged stint for Haniger, who was struggling before getting in the face by a 95 mph fastball from Mets pitcher Jacob deGromm. With the Sept. 1 roster expansion looming, the Mariners could wait to activate Haniger from the DL, which would allow them to avoid another roster move to make room for him.
Veteran catcher Tuffy Gosewisch was outrighted to Class AAA Tacoma on Thursday. Gosewisch was designated for assignment on August 6 to make room on the 40-man roster for reliever Ryan Garton, who was acquired in a trade from the Rays.