Iwakuma, who declined to participate in this year's World Baseball Classic in order to solely focus on the 2017 season, arrived at the Mariners' spring training complex a week ahead of the first official workout, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. "I'm very excited," he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "I'm very motivated. I have a lot of hope for this year. I'm looking forward to this season."
The veteran led Seattle in wins (16), games started (33), innings pitched (199) and strikeouts (147) in 2016, but was openly disappointed in his performance down the stretch, a factor that is fueling his preparation for the coming campaign. Iwakuma has had a meticulous offseason regimen since his days pitching in Japan, yet he appeared to take matters up a notch this offseason. The 35-year-old right-hander spent the majority of the winter training in Los Angeles before his early arrival in Arizona, and has a stated goal of hitting the 33-start mark again and exceeding last season's victory total in 2017. Iwakuma enjoyed an excellent mid-season stretch in 2016, going 13-3 with a 3.58 ERA over a two-and-a-half-month period in the summer. However, perhaps due to fatigue, he went only 2-5 with a 4.96 ERA over his final nine trips to the mound, a scenario he's determined to allow to transpire this year. His focus on being more consistent from start to finish this season is certainly not lost on manager Scott Servais. "Kuma takes his offseason as serious as anybody and he has been here earlier than he was last year," manager Scott Servais said. "I think he wants to show people he can carry that workload. It's hard for him especially where he was in his career. We got probably more out of him than we expected, which is great. We certainly needed it. He wants to back it up again this year. It doesn't surprise me."
It was the third time in seven starts that Iwakuma failed to go four innings. Iwakuma was Seattle's most effective starter this year, but he put the
Iwakuma allowed just one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings in a no-decision Monday against Houston.
Iwakuma has been sharp this September, now with four quality starts in five chances and a 22:8 K:BB over 29.1 innings. He appears to have lost his form this season, having allowed a career high 28 home runs in 195.1 innings, but he has managed to give the Mariners chances to win as they try to climb back into the playoff picture in the season's final weeks. The effort lowered Iwakuma's ERA to 3.96; he has yet to allow an ERA of 4.00 or worse in five major league seasons.
Iwakuma (16-12) allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits and a walk over just 3.1 innings in a loss Tuesday to the Blue Jays.
Iwakuma was riding a three-start quality start streak, but had it snapped as he failed to complete four innings for the third time in his past 11 starts. That inconsistency has led to the worst season of his career. Iwakuma allowed his 27th and 28th homers Tuesday night, the most of his career, and his 4.04 ERA is the worst of his career. If he can't improve it, Iwakuma will post his first season with an ERA above 4.00.
The victory gives Iwakuma 15 on the season, which ties a career high from 2014. He's still allowing a fair amount of hits, but he's limited the damage in his last two outings with five runs in 13.2 innings. He is 15-11 with a 3.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 179.2 innings this season. His next start will be Wednesday versus the Angels.
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