The official announcement likely won't come before Saturday because activating Iwakuma from the disabled list requires a corresponding roster move, but club officials privately confirm he will pitch that day.
For now, manager Lloyd McClendon merely identifies Iwakuma as “a possibility” to pitch Saturday, though the skipper acknowledged he didn't “have any concerns” at returning Iwakuma to the rotation.
Iwakuma, 33, finished third last season in the Cy Young Award voting after going 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts. He also compiled the best WAR (wins above replacement) rating among American League pitchers.
Until now, he's been unavailable because of a strained ligament in his middle finger. The injury occurred in a late January workout but wasn't identified until he arrived in early February for spring training.
The injury prevented Iwakuma from throwing until late in spring training, and he didn't return to game action until last Sunday, when he threw 83 pitches over four innings in a rehab start for Class AAA Tacoma at Las Vegas.
Iwakuma said earlier this week he felt ready to return to the rotation.
“Yes, of course,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “If I wasn't ready, I wouldn't be pitching. ... As of now, it's not where I finished off last year. I think I'm around 70 percent overall. And it will get better. It's been getting better every bullpen I've had.”
Tentative plans called for Iwakuma to pitch Friday, but McClendon pushed two starters — Roenis Elias and Felix Hernandez — back one day after rain postponed Wednesday's game at Yankee Stadium.
A healthy, effective Iwakuma would provide an immediate boost for a patchwork rotation that is also struggling to overcome injuries to two other starters: promising rookies James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
Further, Erasmo Ramirez pitched so poorly that he was optioned to the minors; and Blake Beavan, promoted after Paxton's injury, lasted just four innings before shoulder problems forced him to the disabled list.
More Sports Headlines
Seahawks hope to address offense's slow starts Farquhar falters again in M’s 4-2 loss Coca-Cola calls on Blatter to resign Appeals court says lower court must reconsider Solo case Mís notebook: Cano to have sports hernia surgery after season Schmid, Keller to enter National Soccer Hall of Fame together Rain at Dover washes out qualifying; Kenseth on pole Ex-football star Irving Fryar sentenced to 5 years in prison
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.