Hisashi Iwakuma marked his 33rd birthday by throwing a 45-pitch bullpen workout — his second session from a mound since being diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.
“A little bit more,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “Almost there. My ball felt a lot better today. It came out of my hand a lot better today.”
Iwakuma hasn’t thrown his splitter yet, but he plans to change that in his next bullpen session Tuesday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. It will be a 55-pitch workout and a simulated game could follow if all goes well. That simulated game would then be the final step before a minor league rehab assignment.
Iwakuma is likely to join the Mariners’ starting rotation around early May. The 33-year-old right-hander from Tokyo, Japan boasts an excellent 2.84 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 345 career major league innings.