Iwakuma has signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants for the 2019 season, the Kyodo News reports.
Iwakuma pitched in the minors in the Seattle organization last season as he worked his way back from September 2017 shoulder surgery. At age 37 next season, he seems unlikely to return to MLB. Iwakuma previously played in Japan for the Kintetsu Buffaloes (now Orix Buffaloes) and Rakuten Eagles.
Iwakuma (shoulder) will attempt to play in Japan in 2019, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports.
Iwakuma has been sidelined all season while recovering from a shoulder injury, and this officially rules him out for the remainder of the year. Given his age (37) and recent injury history, this likely signals the end of Iwakuma's major-league career. The veteran right-hander posted a respectable 3.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 63-39 record across parts of six big-league seasons with the Mariners, highlighted by a 2012 All-Star appearance.
Iwakuma (shoulder) is still considered a long shot to pitch in a major-league game in 2018 according to manager Scott Servais, David Gottlieb of MLB.com reports. "He'd love to get in a game at some point, but we really haven't talked about it," Servais said. "I think he felt OK and his stuff was just OK. It's been a long time since he's pitched, so the expectations need to be realistic."
Even if he never dons the Mariners uniform during what remains of the regular season, Iwakuma has seemingly made substantial progress by getting back into game action after a year-plus layoff. The veteran right-hander has managed to make three rehab starts for short-season Everett, offering mixed results. It remains to be seen if Iwakuma will try to resume his major-league quest again next spring, with the prospect of further strengthening his surgically repaired shoulder over the offseason certainly a factor working in his favor.
Iwakuma (shoulder) tossed two scoreless innings in short-season Everett's loss to Vancouver on Friday, walking one and striking out two.
Iwakuma's hopes of pitching some big-league innings in 2018 remain alive following a second consecutive encouraging outing, one in which he worked up to a modest 20 pitches. Naturally, the level of competition is far from what he would face at the major-league level, but the fact his surgically repaired shoulder seems to be holding up well thus far is the most important takeaway from his first pair of minor-league outings. Iwakuma has now pitched three innings overall with Everett, and he could potentially be bumped up to a higher level in the organization for his next rehab appearance.
Iwakuma (shoulder) allowed an earned run on two hits over one inning in Low-A Everett's win over Hillsboro on Sunday.
The outing marked Iwakuma's first time back in game action since June 2017. The veteran right-hander's recovery from September 2017 surgery has endured a series of fits and starts, but he's consistently been trending in the right direction for some time, culminating in Sunday's appearance. Given the relatively short time remaining in the regular season -- as well as the fact Iwakuma faces multiple rehab appearances before activation can be seriously contemplated -- his chances of making it to the big-league roster this season appear minimal. However, manager Scott Servais hasn't ruled out the possibility, Jake Rill of MLB.com reports, commenting Sunday that he'd have "a better indication" after Sunday's appearance whether Iwakuma could still possibly help the Mariners this season.
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