February 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Hisashi Iwakuma makes spring debut for Mariners
1:58 p.m.: The Mariners still trail 4-3 as we head to the seventh inning. We saw another solid outing by non-roster bullpen guy Kameron Loe today as he tossed two innings against his former Brewers club of the past three seasons. Loe allowed one earned run on two hits, struck out a pair and didn’t walk anybody.
One of you emailed me asking whether I could get video of the “sausage race” they run down on the field midway through the sixth inning. As requested, here it is below.
1:42 p.m.: The Mariners gave up runs in the thirdand fourth innings and trail 4-3 as we head to the sixth. Just got done talking to Hisashi Iwakuma about today’s outing, which stood in sharp contrast to what happened a year ago when his Cactus League debut was marred by a lack of command and general all-around hittability. Iwakuma agreed much has changed in the ensuing 12 months.
“Last year, I was more nervous and hesitant,” Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “This year, I’m more relaxed and comfortable with one year under my belt so it’s alot easier getting back into the game.”
It’s not just on the mental side Iwakuma felt better. He said there’s a world of difference physically between now and his spring debut a year ago.
“I feel a lot stronger than I was last year,” he said. “And I’mvery comfortable with my strength.”
I asked him whether he’d changed his training regimen at all.
“I started (training) a lot earlier than I had in the past,” he said. “Not just my arm but my core as well. And that’s what helped me.”
That core training has him seeing a difference in his pitches. He threw a lot of two-seam (sinking) fastballs and splitters today, generating three consecutive ground balls. He got into a nice battle with Ryan Braun, who fouled several 2-2 offerings into the dirt before grounding out.
“Yes, I do feel the difference, especially when I throw my fastball,” Iwakuma said. “The pitches are low and in the strike zone. I feel they’re a lot sharper than they were before.”
And, of course, he’s simply a lot more used to life in the big leagues now.
“The first year and second year are always different,” he said. “You feel a lot more comfortable, like I said. Also, you don’t know what will happen, how your routine will play. You don’t know from left to right. As opposed to this year, when you know what to expect and you know when to be ready for the game, so that makes it a lot easier.”
12:49 p.m.: Just like that, the Mariners grabbed a 3-2 lead in the third on back-to-back homers by Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. Vinnie Catricala led off with a single, then Gutierrez smoked a ball over the batter’s eye in straightaway center for a mammoth two-run homer that tied the game. Saunders came up next and hit a bit of a popgun blast over the wall in right — more of a spring training homer than the previous blast. But they all count down here.
12:42 p.m.: Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead in the second inning with some help from Mariners right fielder Michael Morse, who looked pretty slow playing his position. Joe Saunders came on to work the inning after a 1-2-3 first frame thrown by Hisashi Iwakuma, who got three groundouts on 15 pitches. Saunders had no such luck as Morse allowed a fly ball to drop in front of him right inside the foul line for a Jonathan Lucroy double that should have been caught for an out.
Alex Gonzalez then dropped a single into right field that a a Gold Glover might have had a diving shot at, but a charging Morse had absolutely no opportunity to catch. That opened the scoring and then Jean Segura later doubled another run in by lining a ball to right center. The hit should have been no more than a single, but Morse was slow getting to the ball and the extra base was taken. The run would have scored in any event, but those three plays by Morse just highlighted the downside that having his bat in the lineup could bring if he plays the outfield.
12:03 p.m.: The Mariners certainly hope starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma gets himself ready for the 2013 season a lot sooner than he did the 2012 campaign. It was this time last year when the Mariners discovered that Iwakuma’s shoulder wasn’t nearly ready for the rigors of a major league season. Nor was his overall state of preparedness.
One year later, they feel things should be changed. Iwakuma now admits he’s much more familiar with MLB life and what to expect.
He’d better be. He’s the No. 2 starter in this rotation. Today, he makes his spring debut against the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale, Ariz., part of Phoenix.