Physically and mentally, Hisashi Iwakuma said he’s ready to return to the Seattle Mariners.
Mechanically, he might need one more appearance with the Tacoma Rainiers.
With Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik sitting beside Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart a few rows behind home plate, Iwakuma pitched four innings, allowed three hits and no runs in a 10-inning 1-0 Rainiers win against the D-Backs-affiliate Reno Aces Thursday at Cheney Stadium.
It was Iwakuma’s second minor-league rehabilitation start — first in Tacoma — after heading to the disabled list April 24 with a strained lat muscle.
“Overall, I’m not satisfied with today,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I had to fight some mechanics. I was able to get some of the balls down, but some of the balls I left up in the zone. I thought I had good arm speed and good arm angle, so I think I’m going in the right direction.”
The game remained scoreless well after Iwakuma left until Shawn O’Malley, who was born in Richland and attended Southridge High School, drove home pinch-runner John Hicks with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Rainiers to the victory.
Jesus Montero kick-started the inning with a one-out single and Carlos Rivero reached on an error by Reno third baseman Jamie Romak.
Patrick Kivlehan followed by legging out an infield single before O’Malley’s high fly ball to left scored Hicks, who was put in to pinch run for Montero.
But for Iwakuma, issues from the 2013 All-Star’s first rehab start with rookie league Everett persisted Thursday. He threw 68 pitches over his four innings, which kept him from throwing the fifth like he was hoping to. Iwakuma threw a few more pitches in the Rainiers’ bullpen after his exit.
He said that mechanically he was flying open with his fastball and split-finger, but adjusted after the third inning.
Iwakuma threw 19 pitches in the first inning, 23 in the second and 18 in the third. But his best inning was the fourth, when he used just eight pitches and struck out Peter O’Brien. It was his first start at Cheney Stadium after pitching for the Rainiers at Las Vegas last year.
“It was like pitching at home,” Iwakuma said. “The fans are local here and they rooted for me and I felt that, too. Happy to be the pitcher.”
But likely happier if he were back in Seattle.
Right-hander Jordan Pries (3-1, 5.06 ERA) makes his seventh start for the Rainiers and will be opposed by visiting El Paso’s righty Chris Smith (1-2, 3.48 ERA). The game will broadcast on 850-AM.