HOUSTON — Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is ticketed for a simulated game Monday at Short-A Everett in the next step in his recovery from a strained back muscle.
Iwakuma reported no day-after problems following a bullpen workout Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma. That marked his second time on a mound since April 20.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said the tentative plan for Iwakuma is to throw 45 pitches over three innings at Everett, which doesn’t open it season until June 18.
“We’ll see how the sim game goes,” McClendon said. “My hope is that it’s just one sim game. Then the following Saturday, he’ll go to Tacoma (for rehab assignment).”
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Iwakuma will head to Everett because the Mariners and Tacoma will be out of town. If he joins the the Rainiers for a June 20 start, it will be in Albuquerque.
Minor-league rehab assignments can last up to 30 days for pitchers but, barring setbacks, Iwakuma isn’t likely to require the maximum.
Current plans project him to make two or three rehab starts, which could position him to return to the big-league rotation in late June or early July.
Iwakuma was 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts before suffering a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle in an April 21 throwing session. He was a combined 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA over the three previous years.
SUCRE ON MOUND
Backup catcher Jesus Sucre pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Friday’s blowout loss. He worked around a leadoff single by getting a double play grounder.
“It was kind of fun,” he admitted. “I did it because the team needed it today, but I don’t really want to be there. I like being a catcher too much.”
The Mariners had few options after starter Felix Hernandez departed after just one-third of an inning one day after J.A. Happ lasted only 2 1/3 innings in a 6-0 loss at Cleveland.
“We’ve had 2 2/3 innings from our starters the last two days,” McClendon said. “If that doesn’t stress your bullpen, I don’t know what the (heck) will. That’s why we used Sucre.”
McClendon said the Mariners would likely add a fresh bullpen arm prior to Saturday’s game against the Astros.
“You can’t stress your bullpen that much,” he said, “and think you’re going to be OK on the third day. We’ve got a young kid (Mike Montgomery) going (on Saturday).”
CRUZ BACK IN LINEUP
Nelson Cruz returned Friday to the lineup after missing two games because of back spasms which surfaced on a swing in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Cleveland.
Asked how he felt, Cruz responded: “One hundred percent…minus 10 percent. No minus 5 percent.”
Cruz went 1-for-3 with a walk as the designated hitter in the 10-0 loss to Houston, but McClendon indicated the ailment won’t be an impediment to playing right field.
“The concern about him playing right field is his hamstring,” McClendon said. “The back (problem) is just something that came up. It was just a spasm. He took a funny swing, and it kind of caught him.”
Struggling former closer Fernando Rodney showed progress in one-inning outings Wednesday and Thursday, McClendon said, but don’t expect him to get the call just yet in save situations.
“I’m not sure he’s quite ready to go back to the closer’s role,” McClendon said. “He’s getting better. He’s still working on things every day. It’s coming. It’s not quite there yet.”
Rodney worked a scoreless inning Thursday after giving up one run on Wednesday. His ERA is 6.75 for 26 appearances. He had a 2.85 ERA last season in 69 games.
TRUMBO BATS SECOND
Power-hitting Mark Trumbo isn’t the prototypical No. 2 hitter, and he had never started a game in that role before this season — but he did it 12 times this year at Arizona before a June 3 trade brought him to the Mariners.
And had success.
Trumbo batted .265 with three doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs in those 12 games. So McClendon gave it a try Friday against Houston lefty Brett Oberholtzer.
“I’ve always liked power in the two hole,” McClendon said. “He gives me that against a left-hander. He also gives me a little bit better balance.”
It didn’t work Friday. Trumbo was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts. He is 4-for-32 with 11 strikeouts in 11 games with the Mariners.
WAR ON SHORTSTOPS
This might surprise you: The most valuable shortstop in the American League is…Brad Miller, who only recently reclaimed his job after the Mariners sent slumping Chris Taylor back to Triple-A Tacoma.
So says the WAR (wins above replacement) metric as measured by www.Fangraphs.com.
And hold the jokes: WAR is an increasingly recognized metric, and the folks at Fangraphs are respected in the industry.
It’s still a bit surprising.
Miller’s 1.5 WAR rating is slightly higher than Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, whose rating also rounds to 1.5. No other AL shortstop has a rating higher than 0.9.
The metric rates Miller — by far — as the league’s best defensive shortstop. That compensates for his lagging offensive production, which ranks third behind Oakland’s Marcus Semien and Bogaerts.
Four National League shortstops rate higher than Miller: San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford (2.5) St. Louis’ Jhonny Peralta (2.0), Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria (1.7) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cosart (1.6).
The Mariners announced agreements with their top two picks in the just-completed draft — right-handers Nick Neidert of Peachtree Ridge High School in Lawrenceville, Ga., and Andrew Moore of Oregon State.
Terms for Neidert’s deal were not available, although the slotted bonus for him as the No. 60 overall pick is $1,025,910.
The TNT reported Thursday that Moore agreed to an $800,000 bonus, which is $52,800 under his slotted value as the No. 72 overall pick.
Lefty reliever Paul Fry was the only player selected from Hi-A Bakersfield to play for the California League in its annual All-Star Game against players from the Carolina League.
The game is June 23 at Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Fry, 22, is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 12 games for the Blaze. He is in his third professional season after being selected in the 17th round of the 2013 draft from St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Mich.
It was 21 years ago Saturday — June 13, 1994 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit and grand slam and drove in what was then a career-high six runs in a 17-9 loss at Texas.
Mariners starter Greg Hibbard gave up 10 runs and 12 hits in three innings, and a 42-year-old Goose Gossage, in his final big-league season, gave up three runs in the ninth inning.
Griffey had three more six-RBI games as a Mariner, but his career best came July 8, 2000, when he drove in eight runs while playing for Cincinnati in a 14-5 victory over Cleveland.
Houston second baseman Jose Altuve left the game after his second at-bat in the first inning because of discomfort in his left hamstring…Logan Morrison had a single in the fifth inning, which extended his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 17 games…Houston rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, playing his first game at Minute Maid, hit a homer in his second at-bat. It came against Joe Beimel in the second inning…The eight shutout innings by Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer was his longest outing since pitching a shutout Sept. 13, 2013 in a 2-0 — over the Mariners.
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game weekend series at 1:10 p.m. Pacific time Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Left-hander Mike Montgomery (0-1, 2.08) will face Houston right-hander Collin McHugh (6-2, 4.34).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.