Seattle Mariners

Iwakuma shelves split-finger fastball in tapered last spring start

An efficient Hisashi Iwakuma breezed through two innings Thursday night without throwing his best pitch in a minor-league game that closed out his spring season.

Iwakuma pitched for Triple-A Tacoma to stay on his normal schedule because the Mariners had an open date. The Mariners conclude their Cactus League season with games Friday and Saturday against Colorado.

The limited outing was planned as part of a tapered approach to prepare Iwakuma for his scheduled start next Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field in the third game of the season.

“I was supposed to go less than 45 pitches,” he said. “Just toning it down to get ready for the regular season. I did what I needed to do here in spring training. I got through all of my preparation. So I’m ready to go now.”

Pitching coach Rick Waits said J.A. Happ will likely get an extended start Friday night against the Rockies in Peoria, but that Taijuan Walker will be scaled back Saturday when the teams meet in Scottsdale.

Iwakuma chose not to throw any split-finger fastballs in a 32-pitch outing against El Paso, which is San Diego’s top affiliate, because a blister developed March 28 in his last start.

It’s an ailment that Iwakuma battles on a regular basis.

“It’s a good thing and a bad thing at the same time,” he said. “When I get that blister, that means my finger had a good grip on the ball. So that’s a good thing.

“But at the same time, you have to prevent it from getting to be a problem. You just have to fight it because it is what it is. My finger should be ready by my next start.”

Iwakuma retired six of seven El Paso hitters faced in his two innings. He gave up one hit, a double, but struck out four while throwing 21 of his 32 pitches for strikes.

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