Hisashi Iwakuma took a big step toward rejoining the Seattle Mariners’ rotation, tossing 56 pitches over 32/3 innings in his first rehab start for Single-A Everett on Saturday night.
Iwakuma said Sunday — before Seattle’s 6-2 loss to Houston — that for the first time in a while he felt “back in game mode again.” Progress is being made, and he said he’s on the right track.
“I still need to work on timing and mechanics,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “Other than that, I felt good.”
Of Iwakuma’s 56 pitches thrown Saturday against Eugene (a Chicago Cubs affiliate), 41 were for strikes. He allowed one run — a solo home run to 2015 first-round draft pick Ian Happ — on three hits and struck out three batters.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said Iwakuma’s next rehab start will be Thursday for Triple-A Tacoma against Reno at Cheney Stadium. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
McClendon is happy with Iwakuma’s progress, but said the right-hander will make at least three rehab starts. McClendon said Iwakuma won’t return to the Mariners until he has command of his pitches and his velocity returns to his normal range, which, the manager noted, sits at 88-91 mph for his fastball.
“He’s not there yet,” McClendon said. “Two starts won’t get him there.”
Iwakuma was placed on the disabled list April 24 with a strained lat muscle behind his right shoulder, and he hadn’t pitched in a game since April 20. An American League All-Star in 2013, Iwakuma is 0-1 with a 6.61 earned-run average in three starts in 2015.
The Mariners begin a three-game series against the visiting Royals at 7:10 p.m. Monday. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (10-3, 3.08 ERA) goes for his AL-leading 11th victory. He’ll face Kansas City right-hander Joe Blanton (1-0, 1.80).