Ask Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, at age 34, how long he can continue pitching, and he cites two notable countrymen as examples.
“I feel mentally and physically strong,” Iwakuma said. “You look at Koji (Uehara) on the other side (Boston) or (Hiroki) Kuroda, who pitched for the Yankees until last year and is pitching now in Japan for the Hiroshima Carp.
“They’re 40-plus. That’s what you kind of want to keep doing. You want to continue that and keep (pitching) until that age.”
Consider that as a heads-up to the Mariners, or any other club, as Iwakuma heads into free agency. He said he prefers to remain with the Mariners but offered a “no comment” when asked whether talks are under way.
For now, Iwakuma is content to bask in the afterglow of his no-hitter in Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field. He acknowledged it took a while to sink in.
“That day, two days ago, was a little bit of busy day,” he said. “We had to travel after the game. And when we got up in the air, we traveled for about five hours (to Boston). So, I didn’t get to see the news at all.
“I didn’t get to see any of my messages from my friends and family back in Japan. When I landed, I got to see everything, and I was very surprised by how much news (it made) in my country. It hit me a lot.”
Iwakuma learned that several Japanese TV stations switched from their regular programming to cover his no-hit quest in the later innings.
“I didn’t know much about the history until that day,” he said. “Now, to think I’m only the second Japanese pitcher to accomplish that here in the major leagues after (Hideo) Nomo, it’s very special.”
Nomo pitched two no-hitters in his 12 big-league seasons.
Iwakuma’s next start projects as Tuesday at Texas, although he could pitch Monday against the Rangers on normal rest. He threw 116 pitches on Wednesday after a career-high 118 in his previous start.
“I’m not really concerned about his pitch count,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’ll only be his 12th start of the year. He missed quite a bit of time. So from a physical standpoint, he’s strong.”
Iwakuma missed 11 weeks because a strained back muscle before returning July 6. He is 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA overall, but 4-1 with a 3.05 ERA in eight starts since returning from the disabled list.
“I can go on four days of rest,” he said, “but I’ve been going on four days of rest for a while now, so if I have an extra day, that would be good.”
So figure on a Tuesday start and, if Iwakuma has his way, roughly six more years.
CRUZ BACK IN LINEUP
Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup, as the designated hitter, after missing Wednesday’s game because of a stiff neck. The ailment surfaced Tuesday and prompted his removal in the seventh inning.
Cruz entered the weekend with a 21-game hitting streak, a career best that matched the longest streak of the season by any player in the majors.
Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had a 21-game streak earlier this year while playing for Colorado.
MORRISON IN LEFT
Logan Morrison started in left field for the first time this season, but it’s hardly a new position for him.
Morrison made 240 previous career starts in left, although all but two came with the Marlins from 2010-13. That includes a pair of 2012 starts in left field at Fenway Park with its distinctive Green Monster.
“The ball can bounce different ways,” Morrison said before Friday’s game. “So you’ve got to be aware of what angle the ball is coming in at, where it may hit. But it should be fun. I’m not worried about it.”
McClendon suggested the Monster makes it easier to play left field at Fenway than in other parks: “Play right up against it. If it’s over your head, it’s out. Anything in front of you, charge.”
Morrison drew the starting assignment in left field, in part, to get his bat into the lineup against Boston right-hander Joe Kelly. With Cruz serving as the DH, McClendon opted to put Morrison in left and Jesus Montero at first.
“I’m just trying to balance the lineup,” McClendon said, “and balance the playing time for our guys.”
The Mariners, since the All-Star break, are showing the type of offensive punch they anticipated at the beginning of the season. They are averaging 4.54 runs a game, which ranks fifth among the 15 American League clubs.
That’s more than a full run better per game than their pre-break average of 3.51 runs, which ranked 14th in the league.
The Mariners lead the majors with 96 extra-base hits since the break, and their 38 homers ranked second to Toronto’s 42.
Iwakuma’s no-hitter meant the Mariners entered Friday’s game with a hitless streak of 11 innings, dating to the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 6-5 walk-off victory over the Orioles in 10 innings.
That was tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history.
The Mariners had a streak of 111/3 innings on May 15-16, 1993, and a franchise-record 13 innings from Aug. 15-17, 2012 — four innings following Felix Hernandez’s perfect game.
Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Ramon Flores grabbed the final spot on Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet after going 13 for 25 over his previous six games.
The Mariners acquired Flores, 23, with right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez from the New York Yankees in a July 30 trade for outfielder Dustin Ackley. Flores is batting .449 (22 for 49) in 13 games since joining the Rainiers.
▪ Short-A Everett shortstop Drew Jackson failed to crack the Baseball America list despite going 12 for 24 in that same span and extending his hitting streak to 19 games. Jackson, 22, is batting .398 in 41 games.
▪ First baseman Ji-Man Choi began a rehab assignment this week at Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League. He suffered a broken leg March 4 at spring training that required surgery the following day.
It was three years ago — Aug. 15, 2012 — that Felix Hernandez pitched the 23rd perfect game in major league history in a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay at Safeco Field.
Hernandez had 12 strikeouts, including Sean Rodriguez for the 27th out. The Mariners scored on Jesus Montero’s two-out RBI single in the third inning against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson.
Until Wednesday, Hernandez was the last American League pitcher to throw a no-hitter. That distinction now belongs to teammate Hisashi Iwakuma, who silenced Baltimore in a 3-0 victory at Safeco Field.
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush, out since July 7, is scheduled to test his recovery from biceps tendinitis in a bullpen workout before Saturday’s game. If all goes well, he could then depart on a minor league rehab assignment. … Kyle Seager entered the series with a streak of reaching base in 22 consecutive games against the Red Sox. He had a .361 career average (39 for 108) against Boston. … Gary Hill is joining Rick Rizzs on the radio network for the weekend series because Aaron Goldsmith is on assignment for Fox.
The Mariners and Red Sox continue their three-game series at 10:35 a.m. PDT on Saturday at Fenway Park.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-6, 3.11 ERA) will face Boston lefty Wade Miley (8-9, 4.68). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.
Hernandez is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA in eight career starts at Fenway Park.