By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, who opened the season on the disabled list, each appears positioned to return before the end of the month.
Iwakuma threw from a mound Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.
Walker made his second minor-league rehab start (at Class AA Jackson) in his recovery from a sore shoulder that forced a one-week shutdown from throwing in early March.
Barring a setback, Walker could be ready to rejoin the rotation next week.
Iwakuma threw 34 “pain-free” pitches — mostly fastballs — from a bullpen mound prior to batting practice, which marked the next step in his recovery.
“When you’re on the mound,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki, “you have that elevation, and you have the catcher sitting down. It’s a different feel than (throwing on) flat ground.”
Iwakuma said plans call for him to throw another bullpen workout prior to Saturday’s game against the A’s.
“I’ll be getting my pitch count up and building up my arm strength,” he said. “Maybe I’ll add the slider in the next bullpen. So, hopefully, I’ll be throwing fastball, curveball and slider. And progress from there.
Iwakuma continued to parry questions regarding his possible return to the rotation.
“Obviously, I want to come back as soon as possible,” he said, “but I don’t want to rush anything. I’m taking it one day at a time. It’s up to the trainers, and what they see; the pitching coaches, and what they see.
“Hopefully, from my standpoint, it will be soon, but I leave that up to them.”
Angels’ Hamilton sidelined
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is headed for surgery after suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb on a slide a first base in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game.
Hamilton is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. He was the American League’s co-player of the week for the period ending April 6 and was batting .444 (12-for-27) with two homers and six RBI in eight games.
The Angels placed him on the disabled list and recalled J.B. Shuck from Class AAA Salt Lake City.
It was just a year ago today — April 10, 2013 — that the Mariners set a record for the lowest attendance in the history at Safeco Field when only 10,496 attended an 8-3 loss to Houston.
That broke the record set the previous day when 10,765 attended a 16-9 loss to the Astros. The April 10 record lasted just 19 days: a crowd of 9,818 on April 29 watched a 6-2 victory over Baltimore.
That April 29 crowd is now the second-smallest in Safeco history. The current record is 9,808 on Sept. 9, 2013 for a 6-4 loss to … yes, Houston.
The Mariners have their second open date in four days today before starting a three-game weekend series against Oakland at Safeco Field. The A’s won two of three when the clubs played last weekend in Oakland.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-0 with a 1.88 ERA) will start the series opener at 7:10 p.m. Friday against Oakland lefty Tommy Milone (making his 2014 debut).
The game, which will be shown on Roots Sports, offers an expanded “King’s Court” promotion to include the entire ballpark — and thus renamed as “Supreme Court.”
The first 25,000 fans get a T-shirt and commemorative K card. Special ticket prices are also in effect: $12 for all View Level seats, and $25 for select main level, terrace club and outfield reserved seats.