PEORIA, Ariz. — It was a tapered late spring tune-up start against minor-league players and, judged on that scale, Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma declared himself satisfied.
With the Mariners having an open date in their spring schedule, Iwakuma pitched two innings Thursday against what, effectively, was San Diego’s Double-A club in order to stay lined up for a start Tuesday against Texas in the regular season.
Iwakuma threw 24 pitches, 14 for strikes, while allowing one run and two hits. He also struck out two and walked one. More important, perhaps, is he experienced no finger blisters.
"I’m satisfied with where I’m at right now," he said. "Like I said the other day after my last start, I’m ready to go for the season. Today, I just wanted to tune it up with a couple of pitches, and I was able to do that."
Iwakuma’s previous start also came in a minor-league game. Prior to that, he permitted eight runs and 16 hits over 12 innings in four Cactus League starts.
The Mariners have Iwakuma slotted at No. 2 in their rotation behind Felix Hernandez. Iwakuma turns 35 on April 12 and is coming off an injury-interrupted season that limited him to 20 starts while going 9-5 with a career-high 3.54 ERA.
Iwakuma returned last winter to the Mariners by agreeing to a one-year contract with two vesting options as a free agent after a tentative three-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers fell apart in December.
He is 47-25 with a 3.17 ERA in four big-league seasons after an 11-year career in Japan.
Right-handed reliever Nick Vincent, acquired Wednesday from San Diego, made his debut in a Mariners uniform by replacing Iwakuma and pitching one scoreless inning.
Vincent, 29, threw 14 pitches, including 11 strikes, against minor-league players from his former organization. He is expected to pitch Saturday when the Mariners conclude their spring season against Colorado in Scottsdale.
"It was a little easier today," Vincent said. "(Wednesday) was like the first day you get called to the big leagues. You’re just in so much shock that you don’t even remember what happened the first day."
The Mariners acquired Vincent for a player to be named later. The move effectively filled the final spot in the club’s projected seven-man bullpen.
It was 19 years ago Friday — April 1, 1997 — that Ken Griffey Jr. opened the season with homers in his first two at-bats and led the Mariners to a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees in front of a crowd of 57,386 at the Kingdome.
Both of Griffey’s homers came against David Cone. He erased a 1-0 deficit with a two-out drive to right-center field in the first inning and broke a 2-2 with a two-run drive to right field with two outs in the third inning.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners