Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma will not throw again for at least three weeks while recovering from a strained tendon in his right middle finger, reports Bob Dutton of the Seattle News Tribune.
The fact that Iwakuma will not even be able to throw until later in spring training indicates there is a likelihood he will require a stint on the disabled list to open the season. A recent examination with a hand specialist showed "significant progress," but the injury effects his grip on a ball, particularly when throwing his splitter.
Iwakuma, 32, will be entering just his third season with the Mariners after signing with the team out of Japan prior to 2012. Last year, he arguably topped Felix Hernandez as the team's most valuable pitcher. Over 33 starts, he had a 2.66 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while striking out 185 batters.
The announcement that Iwakuma would miss three weeks comes on the heels of the team learning top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker would also be shut down for a week with inflammation in his shoulder. After making three starts in the majors last year, Walker is expected to begin the upcoming season as a member of the Mariners' starting staff, presuming he is healthy.
With Iwakuma likely out and Walker iffy, the Mariners may now need to fill four starting pitching spots behind Hernandez when the team breaks camp to begin the season. That certainly isn't optimal for a club that made several big moves in the offseason in an attempt to vault themselves to playoff contention. The good news is neither pitcher appears like he will miss much regular-season playing time.