By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Hisashi Iwakuma progressed to throwing a baseball Monday in Peoria, putting away the tennis ball he had been building up hand strength and flexibility with. It was the first time he has thrown a baseball in over eight weeksm and the 6-7 minute catch session from 45 feet went well.
"I felt good," he said through an interpreter. "The ball felt great going out of the fingers. I actually felt my fingertip as well, so everything is good today."
Iwakuma mentioned the importance of feeling his fingertip in an interview with me earlier in the spring. Today he he defined that importance further.
"I have in mind sometimes when you do grip a fastball you can't actually grip it because it will slip off. I didn't have that feel nor did I have the feeling where you would kind of hook the ball so that wasn't the issue. That was good," he said.
While this news was encouraging for him, he did still feel the effects of keeping the finger immobile for so long. When asked if he had full flexibility of the finger, he answered no.
"Hopefully soon. It is still stiff now and we are still working on full flexibility," he said.
He also said that his grip is not yet 100 percent but that he feels improvement every day.
"I don't know how long it will take but it is getting there, slowly progressing," he said.
The plan is for Iwakuma to play catch every day this week on a throwing program of sorts, progressing daily in distance and time. It is not just a matter of building up his arm but the hand and finger strength and flexibility as well. He hopes to take the tape off of the finger next Monday and begin throwing with more intensity at that time. His first bullpen has yet to be scheduled but it clearly won't happen before the end of camp.
For the first time we have a shortstop go back-to-back-to-back and that would be Brad Miller. Almonte is making his 10th start in center in the last 11 games. Corey Hart is still a day away from getting back on the field and as a result Kyle Seager is hitting cleanup for the second time this spring.
I asked Lloyd McClendon just how set the outfield would be to start the season, and he answered by saying that they were not a "stamped line-up." He said that we could see different players in all positions, including center.
Pitchers on the mend
Taijuan Walker, Stephen Pryor and Brandon Maurer will throw in a minor-league game Tuesday. Walker is scheduled to throw three innings.