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Iwakuma's setback is Mariners' only significant issue

By Shannon Drayer

Just wanted to leave you with a couple of thoughts and links before the weekend. I am heading down to Peoria on Monday and will start covering my 13th spring training with the Mariners on Tuesday, the day of the first full-squad workout. This looks to be one of the more interesting camps I have covered with a new manager and staff, a new superstar, numerous position battles, possible moves and a newly renovated complex.

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Hisashi Iwakuma will likely miss part of April before making his 2014 debut. (AP)
In thinking about it and seeing the pictures from Peoria the last couple of days I get the feeling that the first day for me will be almost like walking into a different team's complex. Might as well be covering the Dodgers or the Royals. So many things will be different.

Needless to say, there will be plenty to write about starting Tuesday. For the next few days, unless there is actual news, I will be pretty quiet. These are my last few days of freedom for the next eight months and family, friends and last-minute details are my main priority this weekend.

Before I go I wanted to leave you with a thought about what we have seen so far. Yes, the news has not been good the first two days of camp with Hisashi Iwakuma shut down for four to six weeks, Franklin Gutierrez deciding to take the year off, Taijuan Walker sore and Jesus Montero large. The only news that has any sort of significant impact on the Mariners heading into the season is the news about Iwakuma, though.

The team was not counting on Gutierrez to be an everyday player. The team was not counting on Montero to be anything. Soreness with pitchers this time of the year is hardly out of the ordinary, and while it is a situation that should be watched it probably means nothing. Walker himself is not worried about it and has not been shut down. He played catch Thursday. Believe me, if there was any belief that there was a chance that this could be something out of the ordinary he would be shut down. Not time to worry about this.

Iwakuma is another matter. They need their No. 2. Manager Lloyd McClendon told the media Friday morning that Iwakuma would not be rushed and that before he could make his return he would need to be able to throw 85-95 pitches. I have seen pitchers build up to this number in four starts, but I would think the Mariners would like Iwakuma to throw more. Some of those games may be of the simulated variety and I think if all goes well we could see that happen before we leave spring training, but there is little question he will have to make rehab starts. The good news is there are four off days in April. For once the Mariners seem to have caught a small break with the schedule.

With any luck the Mariners will have Iwakuma at some point in April. Last year he was somewhat limited that month by the blister on the same finger that is holding him back this year. Because of the the blister he did not throw more than 90 pitches until his fifth start of the season yet still held the opposition to just seven earned runs and a .160 batting average in his first six starts. The Mariners no doubt would love to see a similar start regardless of when in April his season begins.

Links

• On 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" today, Mariners pitching coach Rick Waits gave an update on Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Felix Hernandez.

• The Mariners opened their new academy in the Domincan Republic this week and Greg Johns of Mariners.com was there to get a look.

• We talked quite a bit about the importance of the academy with team president Kevin Mather on "The Hot Stove League Show" a couple of weeks ago. That podcast can be found here.

• Former Seattle Times writer Greg Bishop, who spent the last six years doing fabulous work for The New York Times, is now with SI.com. One of his first pieces for his new employer involved spending a day with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic. The article gives a great glimpse into Cano's life at home.

Programming note

• Add two more "Cactus League Reports" to the schedule in March. Earlier this week I said that we would be doing three shows from the Salty Senorita. That has changed. We are now doing shows on Feb. 25, March 4, 11, 19 and 26. The shows Feb. 25-March 11 will be 7-9 p.m., and the March 19 and 26 shows will be from 7-8 p.m. Please stop by and join us if you are in the area.

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