Good news and bad news for the Mariners

The Seattle Mariners have good and bad news this week with respect to their pitching rotation.

The good news is that Hisashi Iwakuma’s recovery from a strained finger tendon has been proceeding well. He pitched in a simulated game successfully, and is likely to start a rehab assignment with AAA Tacoma on Tuesday. The rehab may be on the long side since Iwakuma missed all of spring training with the injury, but if all goes well he will be in the Mariners rotation in early May.  Iwakuma had a 2.66 ERA last year — better than Felix Hernandez. He’s 33 now so unfortunately it’s all downhill from here; he will continue to lose velocity on his pitches and he will probably get injured more (he has always been injury prone). But Iwakuma has never depended upon his fastball; his splitter is notoriously nasty, and he has a sinker and slider as well. So in that respect, he may still have several good years ahead of him.

The bad news is that Taijuan Walker re-injured his shoulder on Tuesday, when he was supposed to pitch in his final rehab start before rejoining the Mariners rotation. He came into spring training suffering from shoulder inflammation, but as of last week that had cleared up and he was pitching well in his rehab starts. This new injury is being called a shoulder impingement, which could have caused the original inflammation, and if not treated properly can lead to rotator cuff tears. They have shut him down for two weeks. Walker is the ace pitcher of the future for the Mariners, so expect them to use extreme caution with him. He’s only 21, which is very young to be pitching at the major league level, and they’d like to keep him around for many years, so it would be silly to take risks now.

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