Mariners Notebook: Iwakuma’s ‘long wait’ comes to an end today

Barring something unexpected, the Mariners will activate right-handed pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma from the disabled list in time to start today’s game against the Houston Astros.

“It’s been a long wait,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I’ve always wanted to be part of the team soon and contribute, so that said, it’s a very exciting day for me.”

Activating Iwakuma will require a corresponding move to clear space on the 25-man roster. “In all likelihood, it will probably be a reliever,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Left-hander Lucas Luetge looms as a likely candidate. He has already spent two tours at Class AAA Tacoma this season and has pitched only once since his April 25 recall, when he replaced demoted starter Erasmo Ramirez on the roster.

Iwakuma was an All-Star in 2013 but is only now recovering from a strained ligament in his middle finger, which was diagnosed in early February. His outing comes after one rehab start at Tacoma.

“I feel good right now.” he said. “I feel strong in general, but the reality is I’ve only had one rehab start. So I’m obviously not 100 percent, but I’m good to go for a game.

“So we’ll go from there and hopefully things work well tomorrow and I get the pitch count up higher than what we had in Las Vegas (83 last Sunday for Tacoma).”

Short hops

Injured pitchers James Paxton (strained back muscle) and Taijuan Walker (sore shoulder) are tentatively scheduled to start throwing bullpens next week, but McClendon said Blake Beavan (sore shoulder) hasn’t yet been cleared to throw. … Outfielder/DH Logan Morrison (strained right hamstring) remains in Seattle and hasn’t been cleared to start running. …The Mariners entered Friday with an 11-9 record against opponents with a .500 or better record (at the time the games were played) but were just 1-5 against opponents with losing records. The Astros carried a 9-19 record into the weekend series. … When Roenis Elias struck out 10 Yankees in Thursday’s victory, he became the 17th Cuban-born pitcher in major-league history to reach double figures. The last one to do it in the American League was Jose Contreras for the Chicago White Sox on May 25, 2008, against the Angels.

Looking back

It was 16 years ago today — May 3, 1998 — that Seattle catcher Dan Wilson hit an inside-the-park grand slam in a 10-6 victory over Detroit at the Kingdome.

Wilson circled the bases on a two-out drive to left-center in the first inning against Frank Castillo. The Mariners built a 5-0 lead in the first inning and led 10-2 after two innings.

An inside-the-park grand slam isn’t as rare as it might seem. It had been done on 170 previous occasions in big-league history.

On tap

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 2013) is slotted for his season debut when the Mariners continue their three-game series against the Astros at 1:10 p.m. PDT today at Minute Maid Park.

Houston plans to start lefty Dallas Keuchel (2-1 and 3.56).

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