With the weather threatening less than ideal conditions Tuesday at Cheney Stadium, the Mariners shifted gears and kept rehabbing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma at Safeco Field for another simulated game.
Everything suggests it went well.
“The feel for the game is coming back gradually,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I felt a lot better than that sim game (last Friday) in Miami.
“The ball jumped out of my hand pretty well today. I feel pretty close now to the regular season.”
Iwakuma threw 58 pitches over four simulated innings. Plans now call for him to throw 75 pitches Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma at Las Vegas (Mets). If that goes well, Iwakuma could then rejoin the big-league rotation.
“We’ll see,” manager Lloyd McClendon cautioned. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Iwakuma, an All-Star in 2013, is recovering from a strained ligament in his middle finger, which was diagnosed in early February. Reports from others suggest he’s close to top form.
“It’s moving all over the place,” said utilityman Willie Bloomquist, who served as one of the hitters against Iwakuma. Added catcher John Buck: “Awesome. Nasty.”
The shift in plans actually had a benefit. The Mariners were better able to control conditions in the simulated game, which permitted Iwakuma to work beyond the 45 pitches planned for his outing in Tacoma.
“We could actually get the pitch count up a little more than we anticipated,” McClendon said. “As you could see, we had him cover some bases, throw to some bases. We had a guy bunt on him. All in all, I thought it went very well.
“I thought he had better finish to the fastball, better finish to the breaking ball. I thought he was sharper.”
A Sunday start for Tacoma could position Iwakuma, on normal rest, to pitch May 2 when the Mariners open a three-game series at Houston.
If all goes well.
“I think you have to be patient,” McClendon said, “because we’re talking about a guy who is not a one-year wonder. I plan on this guy being around a long time because I plan on being around a long time.
“I want to make sure I take care of him.”