Seattle Mariners: History of Starting Pitchers, Part 2

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20: Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners stands by the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on April 20, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20: Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners stands by the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on April 20, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Kuma to Present

The Mariners signed another Japanese import in Hisashi Iwakuma on January 5, 2012, at the age of 31. He started his baseball career in Japan in 2000. In his first year with the Mariners, 2012, he had a record of 9-5. He started his career in Seattle out of the bullpen then ended up starting 16 games on the season with an ERA of 3.16.

For the rest of his career in Seattle, he started every game he appeared in. 2013 and 2014 were his best seasons where he had records of 14-6 with an ERA of 2.66 and 15-9 with an ERA of 3.52 respectively. During the 2013 season, he made the All-Star team along with Felix Hernandez. He was also third in the voting for the Cy Young Award same season.

In 2015, Iwakuma made just 20 starts because he went on the disabled list on April 21 with a strained lat muscle, then returned on July 6. He later went on to pitch a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field on August 12.

Iwakuma became a free agent going into the 2016 season. It looked like he was going to sign a multi-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers; however, they were worried about his health so they decided to revoke their offer. He then signed back with the Mariners on December 17, 2015. He signed a one-year deal with options for 2017 and ’18.

During the 2016 season, Iwakuma had a record of 16-12 starting in 33 games with an ERA of 4.12. In 2017, he started only six games and was placed on the disabled list on May 10, 2017. The Mariners declined his 2018 option, then signed him to a minor league deal, though he never pitched for Seattle during that time. Iwakuma has decided to resume his career in Japan, signing with the Yomiuri Giants.

Right before the 2014 season, the Mariners signed Chris Young as a free agent. Seattle was looking for a fifth starter; however, they got a lot more. Young had missed the 2013 season because he had a nerve condition on his right shoulder that had to be operated on.

Young had the third best record on the Mariners’ staff in 2014 behind Felix and Iwakuma. His record was 12-9 in 29 starts with an ERA of 3.65.  The next season, he signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals.

The Mariners had three draft picks that were called the “Big Three” in Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen.  Walker was drafted by the Mariners in the first round in 2010, while Paxton was picked in the fourth round. Hultzen was drafted second overall in the first round in 2011.

They were all called the “Big Three” when they played together at Double-A Jackson in 2012. Hultzen was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma in June 2013. All three couple have been teammates once again in Tacoma in 2013; however, Hultzen missed most of the season because of a shoulder injury. The injuries never let up, and Hultzen was forced to retire in 2018.

Walker, on the other hand, spent most of 2013 and ’14 with Tacoma, though he did make a few appearances in Seattle late in both seasons. In 2015, he made the Mariners’ ball club out of spring. He started 29 games with a record of 11-8 with an ERA of 4.56.

In 2016, Walker had to deal with a foot injury so he spent a couple of duties on the disabled list, though he did start 25 games with 8-11 record and ERA of 4.22. On November 23, 2016, Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for shortstop Jean Segura and right fielder Mitch Haniger. So the “Big Three” became just one in Paxton.

Paxton made his Mariner debut on September 7, 2013, against the Tampa Bay Rays. He won three games without a defeat in September 2013 with an ERA of 1.50. Because of injuries he made only 13 starts in both 2014 and ’15. He started 2016 in Seattle, but struggled so the Mariners sent him down to Tacoma where he started 11 games. He was promoted when Felix went on the disabled list. He started 20 games all season with a record of 6-7 with an ERA of 3.79.

Paxton looked like he could be a candidate for the Cy Young award in 2017 before he had to go on the disabled list for the second time in the season on August 10. This was after he had a record of 6-0 in July and was named American League Pitcher of the Month for July. He ended up making 24 starts with a record of 12-5 and ERA of 2.98.

In 2018, Paxton had a good season where he made 28 starts with a record of 11-6 and an ERA of 3.76. The biggest highlight was Paxton pitching a no-hitter against the Blue Jays in Toronto on May 8. He became the first Canadian pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in Canada. On November 19, 2018, general manager Jerry Dipoto decided to trade Paxton to the New York Yankees for their number one pitching prospect Justus Sheffield along with another pitching prospect in Erik Swanson and outfielder prospect Dom Thompson-Williams.

Sheffield will start 2018 season in Triple-A; however, he should be in Seattle sooner rather than later. If one of the starters fails or gets hurt he will be the first one called up. We could see Swanson in Seattle sometime in the season as well.

Next. History of Mariners' Starting Pitchers, Part 1. dark

The Mariners acquired Marco Gonzales from the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2017 season. Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2016, Gonzales sputtered in his limited time in 2017. He had the most wins on the Mariners pitching staff in 2018, though he wore out near the end of the season.