Hisashi Iwakuma has been sidelined for more than a month with a strained tendon in his middle finger, but the Mariners right-hander has been cleared to resume throwing after meeting with doctors.
Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that Iwakuma will start slow by throwing tennis balls Friday and then hopefully advance to baseballs early next week.
There’s zero chance for him to be ready for Opening Day and seemingly still a decent chance that Iwakuma will miss most and perhaps all of April, but for now the Mariners haven’t put forth an official return timetable.
His health is a huge factor in Seattle’s odds of contending this season, as Iwakuma emerged as one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball last year with a 2.66 ERA and 185/42 K/BB ratio in 220 innings spread over 33 starts.
Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.
Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.
Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.