NEW YORK – When Hisashi Iwakuma made his whirlwind, there-and-back visit to Japan last week, he departed on a Thursday, returned on Saturday and made the best start of his big league career Sunday.
“My father has illness and that’s why I decide to go back to Japan, even during the season,” Iwakuma said through a translator.
His father has been ill for two years, and when Iwakuma heard it was worsening, he went home with the Seattle Mariners’ blessing.
“I understand what my father is doing right now. I expect he’s going to be getting worse because of his illness,” Iwakuma said.
Iwakuma didn’t spend much time in Japan.
“It’s kind of difficult, but I tried to do my best and just used the time with my father,” Iwakuma said. “Even if it was just a short time, it was useful.”
Iwakuma’s father has trouble speaking on the telephone but follows his son’s career as best he can.
“During the season, I’m trying to my best and show him what I can do to give him more energy,” Iwakuma said. “As soon as I finish my season, I want to go back home to see my dad one more time.”
Going back home did not hamper his pitching. In fact, his focus may have improved.
“I felt seeing him made me energized. It was good to see him and get energy from him,” Iwakuma said. “Then I changed my mind to concentrate, game-wise. That’s why I came back to the United States to pitch. I didn’t want to get out of the rotation.
“I didn’t have much time to meet with him, but I think when I came to the United States, he’s cheering for me from Japan. It’s hard for me to think about.”
Iwakuma will make his sixth major league career start today.
The last time Felix Hernandez faced the New York Yankees, he hit three batters, breaking a bone in the wrist of Alex Rodriguez.
On Saturday, with one out in the seventh inning, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda hit shortstop Brendan Ryan with a pitch on the left elbow – and Ryan had to leave the game.
“It got him pretty good, but the X-rays were negative (for fractures),” Wedge said. “We’ll see how he looks (today).”
Ryan wasn’t stunned.
“After the series in Seattle, we were probably owed at least one,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re even now.”
The Mainers were pleased with reliever Charlie Furbush’s first appearance for the Tacoma Rainiers but want to see at least one more before discussing bringing him back. Would Wedge consider starting Furbush again? “He’s a great weapon out of the bullpen,” Wedge said. “I like him there.” Look for right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor to get more meaningful innings late in games for Seattle. Carter Capps, who made his professional debut on Aug. 15 last year, became just the second player from the 2011 baseball draft to make the big leagues. The first was Arizona pitcher Trevor Bauer.
Seattle plays the Yankees in New York at 10:05 a.m. (PDT) today on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2, 4.10 ERA) vs. Freddy Garcia (4-5, 5.10).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue