Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is ticketed for a simulated game Monday at Single-A short season Everett in the next step in his recovery from a strained back muscle.
Iwakuma reported no day-after problems following a bullpen workout Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma. That marked his second time on a mound since April 20.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said the tentative plan for Iwakuma is to throw 45 pitches over three innings at Everett, which doesn’t open its season until Thursday.
“We’ll see how the sim game goes,” McClendon said. “My hope is that it’s just one sim game. Then the following Saturday, he’ll go to Tacoma (for rehab assignment).”
Iwakuma will head to Everett because the Mariners and Tacoma will be out of town. If he joins the the Rainiers for a June 20 start, it will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Minor-league rehab assignments can last up to 30 days for pitchers but, barring setbacks, Iwakuma isn’t likely to require the maximum.
Current plans project him to make two or three rehab starts, which could position him to return to the big-league rotation in late June or early July.
Iwakuma was 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three starts before suffering a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle in an April 21 throwing session. He was a combined 38-20 with a 3.07 ERA over the three previous years.
Nelson Cruz returned Friday to the lineup after missing two games because of back spasms which surfaced on a swing in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Cleveland.
Asked how he felt, Cruz responded: “One hundred percent … minus 10 percent. No, minus 5 percent.”
Cruz started as the designated hitter, but McClendon indicated the ailment won’t be an impediment to playing right field.
“The concern about him playing right field is his hamstring,” McClendon said. “The back (problem) is just something that came up. It was just a spasm. He took a funny swing, and it kind of caught him.”
Struggling former closer Fernando Rodney showed progress in one-inning outings Wednesday and Thursday, McClendon said, but don’t expect him to get the call just yet in save situations.
“I’m not sure he’s quite ready to go back to the closer’s role,” McClendon said. “He’s getting better. He’s still working on things every day. It’s coming. It’s not quite there yet.”
Rodney worked a scoreless inning Thursday after giving up one run Wednesday. His ERA is 6.75 for 26 appearances. He had a 2.85 ERA last season in 69 games.
TRUMBO BATS SECOND
Power-hitting Mark Trumbo isn’t the prototypical No. 2 hitter, and he had never started a game in that role before this season — but he did it 12 times this year for Arizona before a June 3 trade brought him to the Mariners.
And had success.
Trumbo batted .265 with three doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs in those 12 games. So McClendon gave it a try Friday against Houston lefty Brett Oberholtzer.
“I’ve always liked power in the two hole,” McClendon said. “He gives me that against a left-hander. He also gives me a little bit better balance.”
This might surprise you: The most valuable shortstop in the American League is … Brad Miller, who only recently reclaimed his job after the Mariners sent slumping Chris Taylor back to Triple-A Tacoma.
So says the WAR (wins above replacement) metric as measured by www.Fangraphs.com.
And hold the jokes: WAR is an increasingly recognized metric, and the folks at Fangraphs are respected in the industry.
It’s still a bit surprising.
Miller’s 1.5 WAR rating is slightly higher than Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, whose rating also rounds to 1.5. No other AL shortstop has a rating higher than 0.9.
The metric rates Miller — by far — as the league’s best defensive shortstop. That compensates for his lagging offensive production, which ranks third behind Oakland’s Marcus Semien and Bogaerts.
Four National League shortstops rate higher than Miller: San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford (2.5) St. Louis’ Jhonny Peralta (2.0), Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria (1.7) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (1.6).
The Mariners announced agreements with their top two picks in the just-completed draft — right-handers Nick Neidert of Peachtree Ridge High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Andrew Moore of Oregon State.
Terms for Neidert’s deal were not available, although the slotted bonus for him as the No. 60 overall pick is $1,025,910.
The TNT reported Thursday that Moore agreed to an $800,000 bonus, which is $52,800 under his slotted value as the No. 72 overall pick.
It was 21 years ago Saturday — June 13, 1994 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit and grand slam and drove in what was then a career-high six runs in a 17-9 loss at Texas.
Mariners starter Greg Hibbard gave up 10 runs and 12 hits in three innings, and a 42-year-old Goose Gossage, in his final big-league season, gave up three runs in the eighth inning.
The Mariners entered the weekend with 64 homers, which ranked fourth in the American League. But 45 of them came with nobody on base. That works out to 70.3 percent, which is the highest in either league. … Seth Smith entered Friday with 16 doubles among his 43 hits. That 37.2 percent doubles rate was the highest in the majors among players with at least 30 hits
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game weekend series at 1:10 p.m. (PST) Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (0-1, 2.08 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Collin McHugh (6-2, 4.34).