Hisashi Iwakuma reunites with Mariners as special assignment coach
Former favorite Mariners have become a familiar sight on the practice fields of the team’s spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz., in recent years, and this year there will be a new addition.
The Mariners announced Tuesday that Hisashi Iwakuma has rejoined the organization as a special assignment coach reporting directly to general manager Jerry Dipoto.
“Kuma has demonstrated throughout his career skills that we think will make him a perfect fit working with our coaches and players,” Dipoto said in a press release. “He was always prepared, has a terrific work ethic, and the ability to communicate the things that made him a successful pitcher. We’re looking forward to adding him to our mix at both the Major and minor league level.”
In his time with the Mariners, Iwakuma displayed an off-the-charts work ethic and an incredible understanding of pitching. His stuff was far from overwhelming, but over his five healthy seasons with the Mariners he tied for the club’s career lead in ERA (3.42), threw a no-hitter, finished third in Cy Young voting in 2013 and ranked 26th in WAR for that span among all qualified MLB pitchers.
While never one to give up much in an interview, Kuma was of influence behind the scenes with Félix Hernández, expressing relief when Iwakuma’s signing with the Dodgers fell through in the winter of 2015.
“We are really close,” Hernández said at the time. “We need Kuma, he’s one of the best in the league.”
Another former Mariner and current free agent is among those that credited Iwakuma with helping him while with the team.
Love this! Kuma is the man! 🙌🏾🙌🏾 https://t.co/1abw8X7Bem
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) January 13, 2021
“I talk to him all the time,” said Taijuan Walker in March 2016. “In the clubhouse, during games, in between innings of his games. He has some of the best command I have seen. Obviously he is not an overpowering guy so he has to be crafty, really study hitters, and that’s one thing he is really good at is knowing what hitters are at the plate. He really pitches to his strengths and the hitters’ weakness.”
While this move was not likely a move designed to lure Walker back to the Mariners, it does illustrate the impact Iwakuma can have on fellow pitchers, and that goes well beyond just attack with your best stuff.
Kuma will work with pitchers and instructors at all levels, periodically visiting the minor league affiliates as well as spending time with the MLB club. In addition to his work in the US, Iwakuma will also do some scouting work in Japan.