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Iwakuma on his new deal plus news and notes

By Shannon Drayer

The Mariners have sent the media a Q&A with Hisashi Iwakuma that was done with the help of interpreter Antony Suzuki shortly after Iwakuma’s new deal was finalized. The text is below. I have some thoughts at the end.

Thoughts on why you wanted to stay in Seattle? What led to your decision? Is there a comfort level on being in Seattle? How big a factor was your family in your decision?

“First and foremost, I am very happy with how the Seattle Mariners treated me throughout the season and for their evaluation in me as a starter. We have great teammates here along with an outstanding coaching staff. My family was a big factor in our decision, but we are very happy and satisfied with Seattle and we look forward to staying for at least 2 years.”

What are your overall impressions of major league after one year of pitching in the big league level? What things did he learn?

“There was a lot I learned this year as a reliever in the beginning, just a whole new experience in a different role. I was very happy given the opportunity to become a starter again, and am glad I was able to show what I can do. As I became comfortable in my role, I learned a lot about the hitter here and how they are different from Japan.”

Are you going to change anything in your off season preparation because of that? How big a difference will his experience make for next year?

“I do not see myself changing anything dramatically. I would like to prepare for the season earlier than the past and come to ST ready to go as opposed to getting prepared in Spring Training.”

Did your pending contract situation weigh on you at all this season, or were you able to put it out of your head?

“No, I believe I was able to concentrate and stay focused in my game during the season, and let it play out once all was over.”

Will anything change for you with the new dimensions at Safeco Field?

“No, obviously we know that the ball doesn’t travel well in Seattle. I just need to continue locating my pitches and keeping the ball down in the zone.”

Do you feel you work best as a starter?

“Yes, I am most comfortable as a starter and I’ve learned a lot from the experience this year. That said, this year was a very important year for me knowing what fits best for myself.”

Starting for the Mariners fits best for Iwakuma and Iwakuma as a Mariners starter in 2013 and 2014 is a nice fit for the Mariners. Win/win. I found it somewhat interesting that he said that he would look to begin his preparations earlier this year and not try to get ready during spring training. The days of players getting ready in spring training is a thing of the past in MLB, but in Japan, where the spring trainings from what I am told are far more intense and very heavily focused on conditioning, it could be more the norm. It will be interesting to see what Iwakuma looks like in spring training this year coming off a healthy season and preparation geared toward playing over here. This year he looked like a pitcher coming back from injury. Hopefully this spring he will look like a guy picking up where he left off.

In addition to being prepared physically for next season he will also be better prepared mentally, as not only will he know more about major league hitters as he mentioned above but he will also know more hitters. Iwakuma looked more and more at ease on the hill as he began to get more experience facing hitters last season. The more starts he got the more he looked like a veteran pitcher, not a rookie. He learned how his stuff would best work against hitters here. Late in the year after a game against Anaheim he spoke about having more confidence in his knowledge of the hitters. I asked if he meant the hitters as a group or if he had a comfort and knowledge level in facing individuals.

“Well, I have faced the Angels four times now,” he answered.

This was very good to hear.

News and notes

The Mariners claimed 27-year-old outfielder Scott Cousins from the Blue Jays today and placed him on the 40-man roster, which now stands at 37. Cousins, who has had a few cups of coffee with the Marlins, put up a line of .279/.341/.451/.792 in seven minor league seasons. This looks like a low-cost depth move for the team.

After a monster game today in the Arizona Fall League Nick Franklin has taken over the league RBI lead. Franklin went 4 for 5 today and drove in six, upping his RBI total to 19. In 14 games Franklin has hit .377/.468/.623/1.090.

Major League Baseball’s General Managers Meetings (not to be confused with the Winter Meetings which are held in December) get underway Wednesday in Indian Wells, Calif. and run through Friday. Although these meetings are not set up specifically for wheeling and dealing, quite often this is where preliminary trade discussions take place. Jack Zduriencik and assistant general manager Jeff Kingston will be attending. The following week the owners meetings take place in Chicago.

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