Kuma has come home.
Hisashi Iwakuma, one of the most successful pitchers in Mariners’ franchise history, has returned to the organization in a coaching capacity.
The team announced Tuesday that Iwakuma had been hired as a special assignment coach that will report directly to general manager Jerry Dipoto. He will start his work during major league spring training, which is expected to begin on time in mid-February.
“Kuma has demonstrated throughout his career skills that we think will make him a perfect fit working with our coaches and players,” Dipoto said in a news release. “He was always prepared, has a terrific work ethic, and the ability to communicate the things that made him a successful pitcher. We’re looking forward to adding him to our mix at both the major- and minor-league level.”
Per the Mariners, Iwakuma will work with pitchers and pitching instructors at all levels in his new role and will periodically visit the team’s minor-league affiliates during the season and also spend time with the big-league club. He will also assist Manabu Noto in scouting players in Japan.
Iwakuma spent six seasons (2012-2017) with the Mariners, compiling a 63-39 record with a 3.42 ERA in 150 games (136 starts). He was named to the 2013 American League All-Star team, and was named the most valuable Mariners’ pitcher by the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA in 2013 and 2016.
His 3.42 career ERA is tied for the lowest in club history (minimum of 500 innings pitched), joining Randy Johnson, Félix Hernández and James Paxton, who all finished with a 3.42 ERA in their time with Seattle. He also threw the fifth no-hitter in Mariners history on Aug. 12, 2015, vs. Baltimore, becoming just the second Japanese-born pitcher to throw an MLB no-hitter (Hideo Nomo was the first).
Injury issues slowed Iwakuma’s production and ended his MLB career prematurely. He tried to make a comeback in Japan the last two seasons, but announced his retirement after the 2020 season.