Healthy Iwakuma eager to go, but won’t rush early

IwakumaHaving a healthy Hisashi Iwakuma in camp from Day One figures to be a significant difference for the Mariners this spring, but that doesn’t mean they’re in a hurry to push the veteran before the calendar even reaches March.

While most of Seattle’s hurlers are now firing live batting practice to hitters, Iwakuma instead threw his third bullpen session of the spring on Friday. But manager Lloyd McClendon said there are no health concerns with the right-hander who missed all of Spring Training and the first month of 2014 with a torn finger tendon.

“This is by design,” McClendon said. “We’re just stretching him out a little more. Kuma is A-OK and everything is fine. He has no issues at all. I don’t think he needs the live BPs. The guy is such a technician, he gets more done in a bullpen session than he would in a live BP.”

Indeed, Iwakuma is ready and rarin’ to throw as he prepares for his fourth season with Seattle. The 2013 American League All-Star has been one of baseball’s most underrated starters during his time in the Majors, posting a 38-20 record and 3.07 ERA in 91 games.

The 33-year-old went 15-9 with a 3.52 ERA last year in a season sandwiched by his late start and a rough finish when he believes he wore down due to his lack of spring conditioning. So Iwakuma is pleased to be back on a normal schedule in 2015.

“I’m very excited,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It’s a different year compared to where I was last year. I’m very motivated. I look forward to the season and I’m looking forward to a good Spring Training.”

Iwakuma was 12-6 with a 2.57 ERA in his first 21 starts last season, then 3-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his final seven outings.

“I kind of ran out of gas there,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was very, very tired. I was just fatigued mentally and physically and that’s something I need to work on in Spring Training.”

In other news Friday:

— Although right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is out of Minor League options and facing a tough challenge to make the starting rotation, McClendon said he’s not looking at the 24-year-old as a potential reliever at this point.

“We’ve got some talented arms in that bullpen,” McClendon said. “The competition may be even stiffer down there.”

— Former Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks continues his transition to a utility role with Seattle by focusing strictly on the outfield for now.

“He’s going to have to get his reps out there,” McClendon said. “But I’ve watched Rickie the last three days and I’ve been fairly impressed with the way he’s moving around out there.”

— The Mariners have no plans for any ‘B’ games at this point, with McClendon feeling Monday’s intrasquad game and two split-squad situations during the spring are enough to get everyone their needed work. “I don’t want to make Spring Training a grind. If we need the reps with somebody, we can send them to a Minor League game.”

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