We are only 11 days away from official Seattle Mariners baseball and it’s time for another rundown on the news and notes coming out of Spring Training in Arizona.
‘Kuma is Back in the Saddle:
After visiting doctors this week 2013 Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma has been cleared to remove the splint from the middle finger on his throwing hand. He first needs to start with dexterity and strengthening exercises, but he has been cleared to progress with workouts.
He gets to start by throwing tennis balls. Sooner than later he will go to long toss. Then bullpens. Then live bullpens. Then some simulated games. And maybe, depending on how the M’s are feeling, he could get a start or two in Triple-A Tacoma to build up his arm strength and pitch count in-game situations.
It’s great that he is on his way back to the second spot in the Mariners rotation. Though there seems to be a bevy of below average to average pitchers in position to work in the rotation, ‘Kuma will be welcomed back as an integral cog in the five-day rotation.
And now that he is splint-free and onto recovering and preparing, sports writers like the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton are locked and loaded with the middle finger jokes.
Hisashi Iwakuma said he realizes he needs to be careful around others when doing range-of-motion exercises with his middle finger.
— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) March 18, 2014
Humor aside, look for Iwakuma to ideally be pitching with the Mariners mid- to late-April.
Walker Is Feeling Good, Is Ready to Get Moving:
Taijuan Walker– the sixth ranked prospect according to mlb.com– is making strides in his bullpen work and says his shoulder no longer bothers him.
The first couple of times out he said his first few throws he was waiting and feeling to see if any pain would come. And it hasn’t. He says little by little he will stop thinking about it and he will be full steam ahead with getting into the Mariners rotation.
Look for Walker to be back earlier than ‘Kuma, certainly in mid-April. Though the M’s could elect to keep him in Tacoma for a few more games to be absolutely sure that his shoulder is strong and he is ready to mow down the big boppers in the MLB.
Gillespie Sent To Minor League Camp:
Cole Gillespie was sent to the Minor League Camp earlier this week.
In 15 Spring Training games he was sporting a .417/.462/.542 triple-slash with a double, a triple, and seven RBI.
He was a fringe candidate as a backup outfielder on the 25-man roster.
With Gillespie sent to the Minors, that leaves 39 players at Mariners Spring Training. Of course, included in those numbers are Walker and Iwakuma.
The Mariners, over the next 11 days, will continue to trim the fat until only 25 guys are left.
And they will constitute the Seattle Mariners 2014 Opening Day roster.
The Nick Franklin Rumor-Mill Keeps Spinning:
With the injury to shortstop Jose Iglesias in Detroit, another team was added to the list of interested parties for Nick Franklin and his infield services.
That list includes, but is not limited to; the New York Yankees, the New York Mets, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Detroit Tigers.
Franklin has had a good Spring Training, rocking the .242/.342/.424 triple-slash to go with 3 doubles, one homerun, 5 RBI and 5 walks to go with only 6 strikeouts.
He is MLB-ready. He has the swagger and the skills at the plate. His defense still remains the big question, especially at shortstop.
It will remain to be seen if he gets traded before Opening Day as most of the rumors suggest. The bigger question will be whether or not he is sent down to Triple-A Tacoma if a deal isn’t made.
Keep your eyes on the M’s in these waning days of Spring Training. Didn’t it seem like just yesterday the pitchers and catchers were reporting to Arizona? Time flies when the anticipation and the uncertainty are this high.
Happy Thursday everybody.