They have won and they have lost over their first 12 games of 2012, and the Seattle Mariners have done both without a single pitch from Hisashi Iwakuma.
Signed in the offseason as a free-agent starting pitcher, Iwakuma went 1-0 with a 3.60 earned run average in the Cactus League and was demoted to the bullpen, where his intended role was long relief.
Now, two weeks into the season, that role has become no relief.
“We’re well aware of the situation,” pitching coach Carl Willis said Wednesday. “When we had an 8-1 lead (Tuesday), I was thinking six or seven innings from Kevin Millwood, a couple from Iwakuma, and we finish using two pitchers.
“It didn’t work out that way.”
In the ninth inning, trailing 9-8 to Cleveland, the Mariners put the tying run on third base, and Iwakuma’s name came up once again, Willis said.
“If we tie it there, (closer Brandon) League goes in, but after that, it would have been Iwakuma,” he said.
That didn’t happen, either. In fact, Iwakuma has rarely even warmed up this season.
“He’s never pitched out of the bullpen, so we don’t want to bring him in mid-inning,” Willis said. “He’s been throwing a bullpen session every three days, and his particular program has him throwing a lot, anyway, so that’s not a problem.”
What’s stopped him, then?
“This happens during the course of a season to long relievers,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s just in this case, it’s at the beginning of the season and more noticeable.”
With starting pitchers working deeper into games – or games being in the balance when they leave – Wedge has been hesitant to call upon Iwakuma.
No one knows when that will change, but Willis said Iwakuma has been “made aware” of his role.
ACKLEY AT FIRST
Dustin Ackley borrowed a first baseman’s glove from Alex Liddi and started at first in place of Justin Smoak, who’d had a career-best four-hit game a night earlier.
Smoak sat with a tight right hamstring, a condition he’d been feeling since Saturday but played through.
“Last night it probably felt the worst it’s felt,” Smoak said Wednesday. “I talked to ‘Wedgie,’ and we decided it was better to miss a day than risk a few weeks.”
Smoak is day-to-day.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is a man on a roll that goes well beyond his 0.90 ERA in eight games this season. Over his past 22 appearances, dating to Aug. 21, 2011, Wilhelmsen is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA – with 32 strikeouts in 28 innings. … If the Indians look familiar, they should. There are six former Mariners on their roster: Derek Lowe, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez and Shin-Soo Choo.
Seattle plays host to Cleveland in a 7:10 p.m. game today that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Josh Tomlin (0-1, 8.31 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (1-1, 3.80).
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