The Seattle Mariners placed veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day disabled list after it was discovered he was dealing with a strained lat muscle. It remains unclear if Iwakuma will require surgery to repaired the back muscle. The spot vacated by Kuma on Seattle’s 25-man roster has yet to be filled, but southpaw Roenis Elias is expected to be re-called from Tacoma in the near future.
Hisashi Iwakuma’s start to the season has been less than ideal. Kuma is 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA across 16.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 11 and walked 3 during his first 3 outings of the season. Keeping the ball in the yard has been the real problem for the 34-year-old. Iwakuma has surrendered 5 home runs this season. However, his poor performance this season can perhaps be attributed to his injury.
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The Tokyo native was pulled from his last outing after just 5.1 innings, however he did not appear to be in any discomfort. Iwakuma has allowed at least 4 earned runs in every start this season, and he has failed to make it past 6 innings in any of his 3 outings.
Hisashi Iwakuma’s velocity is down across the board and his typical pinpoint control has vanished. His splitter has been his out pitch over the past couple seasons, but he is leaving it over the heart of the plate far too often in 2015. Kuma has been one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game since 2012, but this season he is inducing ground balls a career low 44.6% of the time.
Unfortunately, Hiashi Iwkakuma’s struggles on the mound have plagued him since midway through last season. After making the All Star team in 2013 and finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting, Kuma has gone 3-4 with a 7.25 ERA over his last 10 outings. If is fair to wonder if Iwakuma will ever return to his former greatness.
Jul 9, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Roenis Elias (29) throws against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
In terms of replacing Iwakuma in the starting rotation, Roenis Elias appears to be the only logical candidate to step in. Elias is currently pitching for the Tacoma Rainiers, but he started 29 games in a Mariners’ uniform last season. The 26-year-old left-hander has struggled mightily in the Pacific Coast League this season, but he went 10-12 with a 3.85 ERA last year in Seattle. I expect the Guantanamo native to get the call in the coming days to rejoin the M’s starting rotation.
We should know more in the next few days regarding the severity of Hiashi Iwakuma’s condition, but it is fair to say Seattle will not rush him back into action. His performance has been abysmal, and his struggles with injuries during the past few seasons are forcing the M’s to take a long look at Kuma’s future in the Emerald City.
I still admire the way Hisashi Iwakuma pitches, but his recent string of poor outings and injuries have made it hard to stand by him. Hopefully, a trip to the DL will get the M’s no.3 pitcher healthy, because a strong year from Iwakuma could be one of the keys to making a deep run in the postseason.