Hisashi Iwakuma returns from Japan, fans 13 Blue Jays

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A whirlwind week for Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma culminated in far and away the best start of his major league career Monday against the Blue Jays.

Iwakuma, just back from Japan after returning home to visit his ailing father, limited the Jays to one run in eight innings and struck out 13 in his second big-league victory.

A mop-up man after a poor spring, he didn’t even make his first appearance until the Mariners’ 15th game of the year. As of May 30, he had pitched all of five times. However, he started getting more work last month and he moved into the rotation earlier in July. He’s now put together three very good starts in a row, allowing four runs over 19 innings against the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays.

The 31-year-old Iwakuma was a very successful pitcher in Japan, so the first few months in the U.S. had to be quite a shock for him. He may not have many more starts like this, but he looks like a perfectly legitimate third or fourth starter for Seattle. With the way he’s coming along, he might make Jason Vargas more expendable.

The Giants are interested in Evan Longoria

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that the San Francisco Giants “have keen interest” in Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

Longoria is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, having hit .261/.313/.424 with 20 homers in 2017. He’s also still owed $86 million through 2022. Which, back when the deal was signed seemed like quite a bargain for the Rays — and likely has been over the duration of the contract — but now seems somewhat steep for the 32 year-old third baseman. That said, the Giants currently have Pablo Sandoval penciled in at third base on their depth chart, so Longoria would definitely be an upgrade, even if 2017’s dip wasn’t just a blip.

Nightengale says that for the Giants to take on Longoria, the Rays would have to take on a high salary veteran such as Denard Span or Hunter Pence. Span is owed $9 million in 2018, with a $4 million buyout on a $12 million option for 2019. Pence is owed $18.5 million in 2018 in the final year of his contract and has a full no-trade clause.

If he stays with the Rays, Longoria will achieve 10-5 rights — full no-trade protection due to being a ten-year veteran with five years of service on the same club — so if the Rays are going to move him, it’ll be much easier this offseason, not once the 2018 season begins.