By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA Ariz. – Hisashi Iwakuma was seen by hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan Friday afternoon in Arizona, and while the doctor was pleased with the progress he saw with the strained tendon in Iwakuma's right middle finger, he recommended the finger be kept in a splint for three more weeks.
Friday's recommendation is in line with Dr. Sheridan's initial prognosis of how long Iwakuma would need to refrain from throwing. It is expected that Iwakuma will be able to resume throwing in three weeks.
The Mariners were not expecting Iwakuma to get the green light to start throwing again, although that would have been a pleasant surprise.
The injury was rather significant. Head trainer Rick Griffin explained what happened when Iwakuma caught the finger in a screen while training in California in January.
"He snapped the tendon and it pulled the tendon off the top of his finger, off the top of the bone, so it has to scar back down and reattach," Griffin said.
Griffin also noted that the split-finger fastball that Iwakuma throws puts extra pressure on the tendon in the middle finger, so it is imperative the tendon is given every chance to fully reattach.
There is obviously no question that Iwakuma will miss the start of the season. It looks like he will not get a chance to throw an inning in Arizona either. A three-week return would have him throwing again March 21.
Griffin told me before today's news that once Iwakuma was cleared to throw he would most likely be put on a ten-day throwing program to build him up to bullpens. I wouldn't expect to see him throw off of a mound until March 31 at the earliest. At that point he will need to throw a few bullpens with 2-3 days in between before being sent out on a rehab assignment. It would appear that he will miss a minimum of four starts.