Seattle’s the place Iwakuma wants to be

MARINERS: Japanese pitcher with new contract says he liked how he was treated

Staff writerNovember 7, 2012 

Hisashi Iwakuma’s first year as a Seattle Mariner was one of adjustments. He had to adapt to a new and better brand of baseball going from the Japanese professional leagues to the big leagues. He also had to transition from starter in Japan to reliever with the Mariners and back to starter in the span of a year. Most of all, he had to adjust to a different life than the one he’d always known.

By the end of it all, he had not only produced a quality first season for the Mariners, but had done enough to earn a two-year, $13 million contract extension.

Iwakuma had the chance to test the waters of free agency. After a season in which he posted a 9-5 record with two saves and a 3.16 ERA in 30 appearances, there certainly would have been suitors. He also went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts in the second half. It proved he could be a solid contributor in a starting rotation, which also upped his value.

But in the end, Iwakuma chose to stay with the organization that gave him his first shot. It’s where he felt most comfortable.

“First and foremost, I am very happy with how the Seattle Mariners treated me throughout the season and for their evaluation in me as a starter,” Iwakuma said in quotes released through the Mariners. “My family was a big factor in our decision. We are very happy and satisfied with Seattle, and we look forward to staying for at least two years.”

Iwakuma made just three appearances in the first 31 games, all in relief. Slowly, he adjusted to life as a reliever and earned the trust of manager Eric Wedge. The long relief success led to spot starts and then a permanent spot in the rotation.

“There was a lot I learned this year as a reliever in the beginning, just a whole new experience in a different role,” Iwakuma said. “I was very happy (to be) given the opportunity to become a starter again, and am glad I was able to show what I can do. As I became comfortable in my role, I learned a lot about the hitters here and how they are different from Japan.”

Iwakuma will likely find himself in the 2013 starting rotation along with Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan and maybe Danny Hultzen among other candidates.

“I am most comfortable as a starter, and I’ve learned a lot from the experience this year,” he said.

NEW OUTFIELDER

The Mariners claimed outfielder Scott Cousins off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon. The 27-year-old spent 2012 in the Miami Marlins organization, splitting time between Triple-A New Orleans and the big league club. Cousins played in 53 games with Miami, hitting .163 (14-for-86) with six extra-base hits and three RBI. In 61 games in Triple-A, he hit .296 with seven homers.

Cousins was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays a few weeks ago but was designated for assignment by Toronto Oct. 31.

With the addition of Cousins, the Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 37. Cousins also has a minor league option available, which gives Seattle some flexibility.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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