Return of Iwakuma, Walker not far off

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comApril 9, 2014 

The Seattle Mariners’ two rehabbing starting pitchers, right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, are poised to take the next step Wednesday in their recovery programs.

Plans call for Iwakuma, an All-Star a year ago, to throw from a mound for the first time since being diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.

Walker shifts to Double-A Jackson for his second minor league rehab start after lasting 4 innings Friday at High-A High Desert. He is recovering from shoulder soreness that forced a one-week shutdown in early March.

“We want to try to keep him in warm weather as long as we can,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “This gives us an opportunity to move him to a higher level and still stay in a fairly decent climate.”

Walker, 21, is slotted for roughly 85 pitches for the Generals in their home game against Mississippi (Braves). Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-50s throughout the game.

Iwakuma, who turns 33 on Saturday, will throw a bullpen workout prior to the Mariners’ series finale against the Angels at Safeco Field. He is expected to throw about 30 pitches, all fastballs.

“I’d probably say he’s a little bit ahead of schedule,” McClendon said of Iwakuma. “I think it will (be) a session-to-session thing with Iwakuma. Just like it was with Walker.”

Even so, McClendon anticipates Iwakuma will make rapid progress once he begins to face hitters. Both pitchers could be ready to rejoin the Mariners’ rotation before the end of the month.

“If you look at Kuma’s history,” McClendon said, “he’s been able to go through lineups, go through seven innings, with a fair amount of pitches. He’s a strike-thrower.”


Avinash Day, a 10-year-old from Tacoma, ran the bases before the game to the cheers of a sellout crowd as part of the Make-A-Wish program.

Avinash has been diagnosed with familial polyposis, a life-threatening genetic condition characterized by colon cancer. He was greeted at the plate by Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Abraham Almonte.

Avinash is a fourth-grader who lives with his parents, Kavita and Edward Day, and his 14-year-old sister, Chandani. He hopes to be a brain surgeon or a baseball player when he grows up.

Almonte is Avinash’s favorite player.


Almonte already owns a niche in the Mariners’ record book after throwing out two runners in Sunday’s 6-3 loss in Oakland.

It marked the 15th time that a center fielder registered two assists. The previous occasion was Ichiro Suzuki in a 5-1 loss at Houston on June 15, 2007.

McClendon offered another historical reference for Almonte: Ron LeFlore, who played for the Tigers, White Sox and Expos in a nine-year career from 1974-82.

“A very powerful runner who has good power to all fields,” McClendon said. “Slashy type of guy who can create runs and produce runs. I think he’s going to be that type of guy.”


It’s no surprise, because of two open dates this week in the schedule, but veteran right-hander Chris Young isn’t ticketed to return to the rotation until next week.

Young lost a projected start Friday when the Coliseum in Oakland was deemed unplayable after its infield was left uncovered during a morning rainstorm.

“As for right now,” McClendon said, “he’ll stay in the bullpen.”


Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, now in his 10th season, turned 28 years old on Tuesday. He was just 19 when he made his big-league debut on Aug. 4, 2005 in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers in Detroit.

Hernandez got the loss despite giving up only one earned run and three hits in that game. It didn’t start well; the first four Tigers reached safely in the first inning on a single, walk, walk and single.

Two notes about that game: Willie Bloomquist started for the Mariners at second base, and Fernando Rodney closed out Detroit’s victory by retiring Bloomquist, Raul Ibañez and Richie Sexson in a one-two-three ninth.


Infielder Nick Franklin is off to the sort of start at Triple-A Tacoma that figures to boost his trade value: 8-for-15 through four games with two homers and five RBIs.

Two early notables through five games at High-A High Desert: Third baseman D.J. Peterson is 8-for-23 with two doubles, a triple and a homer; and outfielder Gabriel Guerrero is 11-for-23 with two homers and eight RBIs.


It was 34 years ago Wednesday — April 9, 1980 — that Mike Parrott set a Mariners pitching record by getting seven assists in a game. He did it in just 6 innings in an 8-6 victory over Toronto in the season opener at the Kingdome.

But that isn’t what’s most notable about that game.

Parrott drew the start after going 14-12 in 1979. He won the opener by holding the Blue Jays to three runs and six hits … but he didn’t win another game all year. He finished 1-16.

Those 16 consecutive losses also remain a Mariners single-season record. Parrott’s streak reached 18 when he lost his first two decisions in 1981 before a 12-1 victory over Milwaukee on May 6.


The Mariners and Angels conclude their two-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (0-0, 1.80 ERA) will face Angels right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.80).

Root Sports will broadcast the game on TV.

After an open date Thursday, the Mariners open a three-game weekend series against Oakland at Safeco Field before heading out on a seven-game trip to Texas and Miami.

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