I love all the stories of Spring Training. We make bigger deals of a lot of things that simply require patience. Then other times we just look at situations with the wrong perspective. This is the way I feel about Hisashi Iwakuma.
There is a lot of concern with him and, Mike Salk specifically has mention during his show, how much the Mariners have invested in what is perceived to be their “#3″ starter. Even I’ve talked a little about the possibility of Iwakuma sliding into the spot behind Vargas and what would be considered the #3 spot. I think it’s pretty logical to at least assume that’s where the organization had hoped he’d end up.
The problem is that it was never guaranteed that he would fall into that spot and even foolish to consider not to consider problems arising. A lot of us hoped he would regain his form, but we’ve obviously talked about the legitimate concerns prior to the start of spring training that he may not simply be that same pitcher. I even mentioned that he was at the top of my list of thing to watch going into spring training.
Let’s say Iwakuma doesn’t work out as a member of the rotation. Maybe he even gets left behind in extended spring training to work on a few things. What then? Easy. You slide Hector Noesi one spot, Millwood pushes up and then you are back to the Furbush/Beavan/Ramirez battle for the final day. That doesn’t even include the possibility of the Mariners considering one of their two phenoms in Paxton or Hultzen, which they’ve contended since the start of the year that they are open to doing.
The Mariners rotation obviously isn’t going to be as strong as it was in either 2010 or 2011. But it’s far from horrible or weak. I think as much as Iwakuma has disappointed, Noesi has –or at least should have–garnered in excitement. Kevin Millwood looks like he may have enough in the tank to give the Mariners enough value to make him worth keeping around, at least for the first few months.
Looking at the back of the rotation, I’d even say that Erasmo Ramirez looks like he may be ready to be apart of this rotation. You still have both Furbush and Beavan, who are interesting in their own right and may even be good enough to be back of the rotation arms.
I hate to say this but while it would be disappointing. Losing Iwakuma doesn’t hurt the Mariners are badly as people would think. The front office has done such a great job at building depth and putting the right pieces together. That Iwakuma working out would be luxury, rather than a need.
Yes, Iwakuma could have become a valued piece to have for this organization going down the stretch. Yes, Iwauma would have worked himself into being an interesting asset to flip in July. And, Yes, Iwakuma could have even turned out to be a better pitcher than Yu Darvish. But he’ll cost the Mariners little in the long run and the Pirates are stuck with A.J. Burnett.
This is all assuming that over the next 2 and a half weeks Iwakuma doesn’t show signs of improvement. Which could still happen. Who knows come April 19th we could be talking about how Iwakuma has really done well and how he has surprised us all… ect, ect. It’s only March 6th and there is a lot of Spring Training left before Tokyo.