Iwakuma dials up solid rehab start

Contributing writerApril 28, 2014 

LAS VEGAS — There was bad and good for Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma in his first rehab start of the season for the Tacoma Rainiers.

After allowing the first three Las Vegas 51s batters to single and score, Iwakuma settled down against a quality Triple-A lineup and helped the Rainiers to a 5-4 victory Sunday in the finale of their four-game series.

Iwakuma, who is recovering from a strained tendon in his right middle finger, struck out two and allowed three runs (two earned), six hits and no walks in four innings. He threw 76 pitches, 54 of them for strikes, at Cashman Field.

“I felt all right,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “My control was not there yet — about 60 percent. I was trying to find my command.”

Iwakuma will travel to New York on Monday to meet the Mariners, who will play the Yankees in a three-game set starting Tuesday. Iwakuma said he wasn’t sure if there would be another rehab start and that the Mariners would evaluate him in New York.

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said after Sunday’s game that he knew the next step for Iwakuma, but would not reveal it.

Iwakuma is a logical fit to start Friday for the Mariners at Houston. Seattle would be able to put him into the starting rotation on regular rest and have him take the spot previously held by Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer.

Iwakuma faced seven hitters in the first, throwing 22 of 29 pitches for strikes.

“It was a totally new feel being at a new park and a new mound,” he said. “I was trying to make adjustments in the first inning.”

He allowed two hits in the second and one in the fourth, but retired the side in the third.

“(Las Vegas) has a good lineup, and they have good hitters,” said Iwakuma, who faced a team that scored 50 runs in its previous four games and 33 for the series. “They are very aggressive. They didn’t miss balls on the fat part of the plate.”

Jesus Montero connected on a three-run homer to left that gave the Rainiers (11-10) a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning. He also upped his hitting streak to 11 games.

After Iwakuma’s exit, Mark Rogers (1-0) pitched the next four innings and allowed one run. Logan Kensing earned the save in the ninth. He gave up two hits but struck out the final batter with the potential tying run on second.

Las Vegas (18-6) saw its winning streak end at six.

ON TAP

The Rainiers open a four-game series at the Sacramento River Cats at 7:05 p.m. Monday. Tacoma will send left-hander Anthony Fernandez (1-1, 4.95 ERA) against right-hander Zach Neal (1-1, 6.55 ERA). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.

Staff writer Todd Dybas contributed to this report.

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