Hisashi Iwakuma’s season has already been put on hold. On the day when pitchers and catchers report for their pre-spring training physicals, the Mariners announced that their all-star starter would be sidelined for much of spring training and likely won’t be ready to go when the season starts.
On Monday, Iwakuma met with hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan in Arizona and was diagnosed with strained tendon in the middle finger of his right throwing hand.
“Lucikly, this does not appear to be a serious injury,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “It is a setback for Kuma, but we are confident that he will quickly overcome the missed time and be able to rejoin our rotation early in the regular season.”
Iwakuma said through his translator Antony Suzuki that he injured the finger during a workout on January 20 in California with some ex-teammates. He was playing catch and jumped up to catch a ball that was thrown high. As he was coming down, he reached back with his free hand and got his finger trapped in the netting of a protective screen behind him.
“I knew it was injured but I didn’t think it was a major thing,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I rested it for about a week and then I started playing catch again – long toss as always. I thought it was good, but the pain didn’t go away.”
Iwakuma is wearing a small splint on the finger. The team said he won’t throw for four to six weeks. He’s hoping to that he will at least be able to pick up a baseball after he meets with Sheridan for a follow up appointment in three weeks. Until then, he will get treatment on the finger, which includes icing and electronic stimulation, while still doing his normal conditioning and running.
From a pitching standpoint, Iwakuma’s best pitch is his splitfinger fastball. He wasn’t sure how the injury might affect that pitch.
“I did feel discomfort when I was playing catch,” he said. “We’ll have to see how it feels down the road.”
The time off will set Iwakuma’s throwing program back significantly, making it seemingly impossible for him to be ready for the beginning of the season.
“I want to be ready as soon as possible,” he said. “I want to be ready for the start of the season, realistically I don’t know if I can make that happen.”
The Mariners already had plenty of uncertainties surrounding the starting rotation. This just adds to it. Will Zduriencik go out and get another starting pitcher? Or will he hope that Scott Baker, Randy Wolf or Zach Miner – all non-roster invites coming off of injuries – will be healthy enough to fill a rotation spot.