Hisashi Iwakuma received injections into his ailing right shoulder and won't throw for at least a week. He's been out since early May.
Hisashi Iwakuma’s return to the mound for the Mariners is looking less and less likely with each setback in his recovery from shoulder inflammation.
The veteran right-hander experienced more discomfort in his right shoulder following a bullpen session this past weekend in Anaheim. After meeting with team orthopedist Dr. Edward Khalfayan on Monday, Iwakuma has been shut down from throwing for at least a week. Iwakuma confirmed that he received a cortisone injection and a platelet rich plasma injection in his shoulder to help calm the inflammation and speed up the recovery.
“It’s not feeling well yet,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It’s just inflammation in my shoulder in general.”
It was yet another setback in his recovery from an injury that placed him on the disabled list on May 17.
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“It’s a lot longer than I was expecting,” he said of the recovery. “It’s very disappointing and frustrating. But it is what it is and you just have to take it day by day.”
Iwakuma last pitched in a game on May 3, throwing five innings against the Angels. After that outing, he felt discomfort in the shoulder during his midweek throwing routine. He’s made six starts this season, posting an 0-2 record with a 4.35 ERA.
This isn’t the first time Iwakuma has dealt with shoulder injuries in his career. It’s been an issue dating back to his time pitching in Japan. He’s had multiple disabled list stints with the Mariners because of shoulder issues and concerns over the shoulder’s health during his physical with the Dodgers led to them to scuttle a three-year contract as a free agent after the 2015 season.
Given the nature of the injury and having to start his throwing program from the basics in a week at the earliest, a conservative expectation for his return to the rotation barring any setbacks would be in mid-August.
“You just have to be patient with the situation,” he said. “You have to believe that things are going to get better and take it one day a time with rehab and treatment and any kind of training I can do in the weight room, just keeping my body shape.”
Some people within the Mariners organization think he might not pitch again for Seattle this season, which isn’t an unfair assessment of the situation. The Mariners are certainly at the point where they’ve stopped expecting him to return and contribute. Unlike with Drew Smyly, who is scheduled to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in the coming days, there is no immediate closure for the situation.
Iwakuma will continue to rehab and try to return and help the Mariners in the final month of the season. If he is able to return and help, it will be a bonus.
Asked if he’s confident that it will get better, Iwakuma replied: “Yes, of course.”
The injuries this season have insured that Iwakuma’s option for 2018 won’t vest. If he had reached a total of 324 innings pitched combined from 2016 and 2017, Iwakuma’s option for $15 million in 2018 would have kicked in. But he’s thrown just 230 innings (199 in 2017, 31 this season).
Still, this only furthers the idea that general manager Jerry Dipoto needs to add starting pitching help for this season and possibly next season at the trade deadline. After the starting rotation of James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Ariel Miranda, Sam Gaviglio and Andrew Moore, only Christian Bergman and Chase De Jong remain in Class AAA Tacoma as options for depth.