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Mariners extend contract of Hishashi Iwakuma

By Shannon Drayer

The Mariners have extended the contract of Hisashi Iwakuma through the 2014 season with an option for 2015. According to Jon Heyman of the deal is worth $14 million – $6.5 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014, with a $1 million buyout of a $7 million option for 2015.

“Hisashi did a very nice job for us at the end of last season as a starting pitcher and we are happy that we have come to a mutual agreement. We look forward to his veteran presence and to his contributions for the next few seasons,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said in the official press release.

While there were questions about Iwakuma in spring training and early in the season, he proved very effective later in the year while posting an 8-4 record with a 2.65 ERA in his 16 starts, with some of his greatest success coming against division rival Anaheim.

When Iwakuma was first signed it was assumed by many, myself included, that he would automatically be put in the starting rotation. Zduriencik, however, took a wait-and-see approach, telling the media in a conference call after the original signing that they would have to see what they had before they made any decisions. He went on to say that the one-year deal gave them the opportunity to do so and also gave Iwakuma the opportunity to see if Seattle and MLB was a good fit for him as well.

Iwakuma admitted mid-season that he had needed time to get into the swing of things and continue to build strength following a year where he had shoulder issues. Coming out of spring training he was kept in the bullpen, where he continued to work and adapt his routine to what would be needed with the MLB schedule. He was able to build up at his own pace and the results were such that there was little question the Mariners wanted to keep him.

The move leaves few question marks if any in the starting rotation as Iwakuma, along with Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, are a strong 1-2-3, leaving room for younger pitchers like Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan or even a surprise from the minor leagues at the bottom of the rotation.

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