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.

Kyle Schwarber: Before and After

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It’s always a bit deceiving to see offseason workout photos of players who are said to be getting into great shape because guys in those pics are wearing compression shirts and crap and we’re used to seeing them in baseball uniforms. I remember pics of Miguel Cabrera and David Ortiz in the offseason looking svelte, only to see them in uniform come spring as their familiar beefy selves. Uniforms are often loose and billowy and the players wear  a couple of layers when they’re suited up, so at least visually speaking it’s better to compare apples to apples.

Which brings us to Kyle Schwarber. All offseason long we’ve been getting reports about Schwarber working out, losing weight and, of course, getting into The Best Shape of His Life. And some of those pics have definitely shown a young man who has cut fat and gotten lean. Good for him!

Let’s see how that translates to Schwarber in uniform. Here is is at spring training last year:

MESA, AZ – FEBRUARY 21: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs poses during Chicago Cubs Photo Day on February 21, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

 

Here he is toward the end of last season:

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 09: at Wrigley Field on September 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

And here he is now:

MESA, AZ – FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs poses during Chicago Cubs Photo Day on February 20, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

Nice goin’, kid.