MIAMI — All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma experienced no problems Friday in a simulated game and, barring something unexpected, will begin his minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Tacoma.
“I was going 100 percent, just like a game, and I had no pain,” said Iwakuma, who was diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.
“I was pain-free with my finger. Everything looks good so far. I think I’m at around 70 percent right now. I still need to command my pitches and get that feel back.”
Iwakuma threw 35 pitches, including his trademark split-finger fastball, in an early workout at Marlins Park before the Mariners opened a three-game weekend series against Miami.
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It marked Iwakuma’s first workout against hitters. In a simulated game, a pitcher is limited to a specified number of pitchers between a break of several minutes to mirror game conditions. Hitters are permitted to swing.
“I was a little nervous,” Iwakuma admitted. “I was trying to find my balance, but I was able to throw strikes. So that was good. I think I’m at around 70 percent right now.
“I still need to command my pitches and get that feel back.”
The Mariners liked what they saw.
“He’ll throw a bullpen (workout) Sunday,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “If all goes well, you’ll possibly see him out on a rehab Tuesday of next week.”
That puts Iwakuma in line to face Sacramento (A’s) in the final game of the Rainiers’ homestand at Cheney Stadium.
Iwakuma and club officials remain cautious in targeting a date for his return to the rotation, but McClendon continues to set a 90-pitch endurance threshold as the minimum standard.
“We just want to see him continue to progress and stay healthy,” McClendon said. “We’ll figure out that (return date) as we move forward. It’s nice to have an All-Star getting healthy.”
Iwakuma, 33, was 14-6 last season with a 2.66 ERA. He was picked to the American League All-Star team and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.