The Mariners think they may get a boost from veteran Hisashi Iwakuma this season as his recovery from shoulder surgery appears to be going well.
Scott Servais isn’t sure when exactly it will happen.
But with each passing day he is more convinced than ever that Hisashi Iwakuma will play a significant role for the Seattle Mariners at some point in the 2018 season.
“Very well,’’ Servais said Wednesday when asked about Iwakuma’s progress from a shoulder injury that ended last season and left him resigned to signing a minor league deal with the Mariners in November.
“I’m actually very excited about where he’s at. He’s going to help up this year. I keep saying it. We will need him. And I feel good about his chances of stepping up and helping us at some point.’’
That optimism was heightened when Iwakuma threw 10 pitches off a mound Monday.
That may not seem like much. But Iwakuma, who had surgery on Sept, 27, regarded it as a significant step.
“I felt great,’’ Iwakuma said. “Overall, I wasn’t nervous about anything. I felt pretty good throwing off the slope. I didn’t have to worry about shoulder in general. That’s always a good sign. I felt great. Better than I was expecting.’’
In fact, Iwakuma said he had to reach back a while to find the last time he felt as good pitching.
“I can’t recall when I felt that good, probably a year ago in spring training,’’ Iwakmua said. “That was probably the best I felt.’’
Iwakuma is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Sunday, an even more significant step.
But similar to Servais, Iwakuma says that with each passing day he allows himself to think of the prospect of actually contributing to the Mariners this season.
“As a whole, I think about that a lot,’’ he said. “But right now. I’m just worried about making good steps, one at a time. I’m making sure I clear my next step and not think too far.’’
The shoulder problems, which limited Iwakuma to just six starts last season, left his future in doubt and Servais has acknowledged he kept his expectations muted initially.
Wednesday, he admitted that even a month ago he wasn’t sure that Iwakuma — whose 63 wins are the seventh-most in Mariners history — might factor into the team’s plans this season.
“No,’’ Servais said. “With where he’s at, he’s got a lot of innings on the arm. I love everything he brings and the competitor that he is. I would love to see him get back and have another impactful run for us. I hope it’s not just my heart over my head because I really respect and love what he does on the mound for us. I’m going to stay positive with this one. I really believe he’s going to help us.’’