From ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick comes word that the Mariners have signed Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma to a one-year, $1.5 million major league contract. The agreement also carries another $3.4 million in performance-based incentives.
Iwakuma, 30, registered a superb 2.42 ERA and 90/19 K/BB ratio in 119 innings last season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball. He posted a 2.82 ERA and 153/36 K/BB ratio across 201 innings in 2010.
The A’s tried to sign Iwakuma last offseason, offering up a $19 million posting fee for exclusive negotiating rights, but the two sides ultimately failed to work out a major league contract. If everything goes well in spring training with the Mariners, the 6-foot-3 native of Tokyo should grab a spot at the back end of the Seattle starting rotation.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.