Coming in to 2015, the Mariners had a good five-man rotation, one of the best in the league in 2014. Seattle could afford to let Chris Young who had revitalized his career in Seattle go. The only decision that needed be made was Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias, which Walker ended up winning out of Spring Training.
If there was one reason for concern, Seattle seemed to be a bit lacking in starting pitching depth. Elias was the only viable option in AAA and they didn’t have much depth beyond him. When Hisashi Iwakuma went down in April, the obvious decision was Elias. But then, James Paxton hit the DL as well and the Mariners had to bring up Mike Montgomery who was the return piece in the Erasmo Ramirez trade to Tampa Bay at the end of Spring Training.
With both Elias and Montgomery having pitched well and Iwakuma ready to come back from a DL stint that lasted about two months, the biggest question for the Mariners right now is who loses a rotation spot?
Iwakuma made his third rehab start Tuesday night in AAA Tacoma against Las Vegas, but it was cut short as he was forced from the game with a blister on his right middle finger. Iwakuma is coming off of an injury for a strained lat muscle suffered back in April.
Iwakuma went 5.2 innings allowing one run on five hits while striking out six and walking just one. He felt much more in command and threw 57 of his 82 pitches for strikes. He did, however give up four doubles.
As for the injury that occurred in the sixth inning, he seemed to brush it to the side a bit.
“It happens a lot and is common for me,” Iwakuma said. “I threw a split and felt my blister pop and then on that curveball, when I struck the guy out, I felt it rip open”
Aside from the injury, Iwakuma was fairly efficient with his pitches. The deepest into a count he got was eight pitches and that happened just once. He was cruising through the first three innings on just 29 pitches, but the second time through the order was when he allowed his lone run, an RBI double.
“Overall I think I did pretty good. Mecahanically I was a lot better today, I was able to get strike one… get ahead in the count early”
Iwakuma went on to say, “I was able to make my adjustments today and my shoulder wasn’t flying open [like last start]… overall I was able to throw strikes in and out so that was good.”
It is unsure whether he will make another rehab start, but if called on to make a start in Seattle at the Major League level he should be ready saying, “I feel a lot more comfortable mentally and physically.”
Blisters have come up many times in the past with Iwakuma as he uses his middle finger to throw his put away pitch, which is his splitter. He put it bluntly, saying it “shouldn’t be a huge set back,” but you never know as the Mariners might milk another week or so out of Hisashi in the minors on a rehab assignment because there is a bit of a logjam in the rotation at the moment.
Mike Montgomery has pitched tremendously, Taijuan Walker has been nearly untouchable, J.A. Happ doesn’t have any options, and Felix Hernandez is, well, Felix Hernandez. Roenis Elias has struggled of late and he could be the one forced from this rotation. Whoever it may be probably doesn’t deserve it, but Iwakuma is a top of the line starter and will definitely be back in the rotation. Going to the bullpen as a long reliever could be an option as well. As for a six-man rotation, that seems very unlikely.
Lloyd McClendon has quite a tough dilemma on his hands in Seattle.
Tacoma Beats Las Vegas, 8-4
As for the rest of the PCL ballgame in Tacoma, the Rainiers beat the Las Vegas 51’s by a score of 8-4. The Rainiers scored all of their runs off of Las Vegas starter Dillon Gee who had another bad start in AAA.
Gee went 4.1 innings giving up eight runs on 13 hits while striking out two and walking two. His ERA climbs to 13.50 after his second start in AAA since being DFA’ed by the Mets recently.
Tacoma really got the bats out as they tallied 16 hits and were led by Jesus Montero who was 4-for-5 with a double raising his average to .314 for the Rainiers. James Jones and Chris Taylor also both tallied two hits, two runs scored, and one RBI a piece.