Iwakuma continues to come through for the Mariners

Sep 2, 2012, 11:03 PM | Updated: Sep 3, 2012, 2:03 pm

By Shannon Drayer

1-2 against the Angels, 1-1 in the month of September and now the circus comes to town. Thanks to all who participated with the comments on the last post while I took two days off. Checked out completely. I rarely do that. Okay, I did peek at a score on Saturday to make sure Felix wasn’t doing anything special but beyond that I was completely off, so it was great to finally look at the blog and see some of the comments and realize that some of you get it.

And some of you still don’t. If Lessmith50 truly thinks this year was about throwing good money at bad players, well, he is not paying attention. Outtastate, I don’t even know where to begin with you. Okay wait, never mind, I do. This team hasn’t identified a clutch player? I would argue they have two and very possibly three. At least you turn your focus to where it needs to be heading and that is the offseason. Obviously, Jack Zduriencik has got to find an impact hitter. A run producer. We will have plenty of conversations about that in the offseason but boy, the reminder was flashing in our faces in Minnesota every time we saw Josh Willingham up at the plate. And Outtastate, he is hitting only .260. Focus in on some numbers other than average, please.

One thing we haven’t discussed much has been starting pitching going forward. Kevin Millwood more than likely will not be back so that is one spot that will be open. Are you sold on Blake Beavan? I would let him compete for a spot in the rotation but I am not promising him a spot. The big three aren’t ready and we haven’t seen enough of Erasmo Ramirez. Hector Noesi? Who knows what he is at this point. The in-house options look not quite ready while the pitcher who has taken the biggest steps forward, Hisashi Iwakuma, is a free agent at the end of the year.

Put him on the list. The shopping list. He fits a big need and is now a known quantity to the Mariners. He eased into the season, eased into the starter’s role and while some will say he was there all along and it was Eric Wedge’s bad for not pitching him more early or putting him in the rotation from the get go, they are wrong. He wasn’t ready. Anyone who saw him this spring knew it. The velocity wasn’t there, the pitches weren’t there. Physically he did not look ready. It had little to do with his performance in games this spring and it was all about what we saw in bullpens, side work. The arm strength wasn’t there, the pitches were flat, he needed work. He himself admitted in May that it takes him some time to get into a season.

He has learned a lot this year. He has made the transition to pitching every five days. He has also learned hitters. He mentioned this through his interpreter in his postgame interview Sunday. I asked if he meant he had learned hitters as a collective or if he had learned to read individuals.

He smiled when the question was translated to him and stated that today was the third time he had faced the Angels. This knowledge gave him confidence. With what he has done since mid July, he should have confidence.

Since July 20, Iwakuma has allowed just 11 earned runs in 57 innings pitched for a 1.73 ERA over nine starts. This includes two starts against the Angels, two against the Yankees and one against the Rays. While he lives dangerously sometimes, allowing too many baserunners (five Angels reached third base today), he doesn’t allow many to score. He is a nice and needed addition to the rotation.

When Zduriencik first acquired Iwakuma he admitted he didn’t know where this would go. He called it an opportunity for both parties. Well, we know a lot more about Iwakuma the pitcher, the starter, now. Put him on the list for next year and you have the makings of a solid 1-2-3 in the rotation. As for 4 and 5? Stay tuned.

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Iwakuma continues to come through for the Mariners