By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Mariners haven’t yet held their first official spring workout and already they’re dealing with an injury to a key player.
All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after being diagnosed with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand. The injury occurred Jan. 20 in an off-season workout in California. No surgery is anticipated, but Iwakuma, a 32-year-old right-hander, will not pick up a baseball for at last three weeks.
“We were doing some baseball drills, working out with ex-teammates,” he said Wednesday through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I jumped for a ball, and unconsciously grabbed the netting (on a protective movable screen).
“My right (middle) finger got caught in the net, and I pulled it. I knew it was injured. I didn’t think it was a major thing. I rested my finger for about a week and started playing catch again, long toss as always.
“I thought it was good, but the pain didn’t go away.”
Iwakuma was examined Monday by Dr. Don Sheridan, a hand specialist in Phoenix who made the diagnosis. The next examination is in three weeks; any throwing is on hold until then.
“Luckily, this does not appear to be a serious injury,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “It is a setback for Kuma, but we are confident that he will quickly overcome the missed time and be able to rejoin our rotation early in the regular season.”
Announcement of Iwakuma’s injury came one day before the Mariners hold their first official workout for pitchers and catchers at the Peoria Sports Complex. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 18.
Iwakuma signed with the Mariners in January 2012 after an 11-year career in Japan and quickly established himself as one of the game’s top starters. He was 14-6 last season with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts.
“It’s not easy, to be honest,” Iwakuma said. “I’m very disappointed at what happened. But it is what it is. I’ll have to go from here on … I look forward to coming back as soon as possible.”
Even he isn’t sure when that will be.
“I want to be ready as soon as possible, obviously,” Iwakuma said. “I want to be ready for the start of the season. Realistically, I don’t know if I can make that happen.