By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners’ two rehabbing starting pitchers, right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, are poised to take the next step today in their recovery programs.
Plans call for Iwakuma, an All-Star a year ago, to throw from a mound for the first time since being diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.
Walker shifts to Class AA Jackson for his second minor-league rehab start after lasting 41/3 innings last Friday at Class Hi-A High Desert. He is recovering from shoulder soreness that forced a one-week shutdown in early March.
“We want to try to keep him (Walker) in warm weather as long as we can,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “This gives us an opportunity to move him to a higher level and still stay in a fairly decent climate.”
Walker, 21, is slotted for roughly 85 pitches for the Generals in their home game against Mississippi (Braves). Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-50s throughout the game.
Iwakuma, who turns 33 on Saturday, will throw a bullpen working prior to the Mariners’ series finale against the Angels at Safeco Field. He is expected to throw about 30 pitches, all fastballs.
“I’d probably say he’s a little bit ahead of schedule,” McClendon said. “I think it will a session-to-session thing with Iwakuma. Just like it was with Walker.”
Even so, McClendon anticipates Iwakuma will make rapid progress once he begins to face hitters. Both pitchers could be ready to rejoin the Mariners’ rotation before the end of the month.
“If you look at Kuma’s history,” McClendon said, “he’s been able to go through lineups, go through seven innings, with a fair amount of pitches. He’s a strike-thrower.”
Center fielder Abraham Almonte already owns a niche in the Mariners’ record book after throwing out two runners in Sunday’s 6-3 loss in Oakland.
It marked the 15th time that a center fielder registered two assists. The most-recent previous occasion was Ichiro Suzuki on June 15, 2007 in a 5-1 loss at Houston.
McClendon offered another historical reference for Almonte: Ron LeFlore, who played for the Tigers, White Sox and Expos in a nine-year career from 1974-82.
“A very powerful runner who has good power to all fields,” McClendon said. “Slashy-type of guy who can create runs and produce runs. I think he’s going to be that type of guy.”
Young stays in pen
It’s no surprise, because of two open dates this week in the schedule, but veteran right-hander Chris Young isn’t ticketed to return to the rotation until next week.
Young lost a projected start last Friday when the O.co Coliseum in Oakland was deemed unplayable after its infield was left uncovered during a morning rain storm.
“As for right now,” McClendon said, “he’ll stay in the bullpen.”
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, now in his 10th season, turned 28 on Tuesday. He was just 19 when he made his big-league debut on Aug. 4, 2005 in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers in Detroit.
Hernandez got the loss despite giving up only one earned run and three hits in that game. It didn’t start well; the first four Tigers reached safely in the first inning on a single, walk, walk and single.
Two notes about that game: Willie Bloomquist started for the Mariners at second base, and Fernando Rodney closed out Detroit’s victory by retiring Bloomquist, Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson in a one-two-three ninth.
Infielder Nick Franklin is off to the sort of start at Class AAA Tacoma that figures to boost his trade value: 8-for-15 through four games with two homers and five RBI.
Two early notables through five games at Class Hi-A High Desert: Third baseman D.J. Peterson is 7-for-18 with two doubles and a homer; and outfielder Gabriel Guerrero is 9-for-18 with two homers and eight RBI.
It was 34 years ago Wednesday — April 9, 1980 — that Mike Parrott set a Mariners’ pitching record by recording seven assists in a game. He did it in just 61/3 innings in an 8-6 victory over Toronto in the season opener at the Kingdome.
But that isn’t what’s most notable about that game.
Parrott drew the start after going 14-12 in 1979. He won the opener by holding the Blue Jays to three runs and six hits … but he didn’t win another game all year. He finished 1-16.
Those 16 straight losses also remain a Mariners single-season record. Parrott’s streak reached 18 when he lost his first two decisions in 1981
before a 12-1 victory over Milwaukee on May 6.
The Mariners and Angels conclude their two-game series at 7:10 p.m. today at Safeco Field. Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (0-0 with a 1.80 ERA) will face LA right-hander Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.80).
Root Sports will carry the game.
After an open date Thursday, the Mariners open a three-game weekend series against Oakland at Safeco Field before heading out on a seven-game trip to Texas and Miami.