SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma, who missed most of last season with shoulder problems, has agreed to remain with the Mariners, as the veteran right-hander signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp, the club announced Monday.Iwakuma became a free agent last month when Seattle declined a
SEATTLE -- Hisashi Iwakuma, who missed most of last season with shoulder problems, has agreed to remain with the Mariners, as the veteran right-hander signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp, the club announced Monday.
Iwakuma became a free agent last month when Seattle declined a $10 million club option for 2018 and instead gave him a $1 million buyout. The 36-year-old will now have a chance to work his way back with the only team he's played for since coming to MLB from Japan in 2012.
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Iwakuma was one of Seattle's top starters from 2012-16, but went 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts last season before being sidelined the remainder of the year with shoulder issues. He underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery on Sept. 27, and he isn't expected to begin throwing again until around the start of Spring Training in February.
Iwakuma had been working out and rehabbing at Safeco Field this offseason before spending time in Japan recently. He'll continue working toward getting his arm ready to pitch in the coming months.
Iwakuma wrote on his Instagram account that the Mariners offered him a contract early in his rehab process and he was grateful for the team's help in his recovery and the opportunity to return.
"I signed a Minor League deal until I recover well, but I will definitely come back and contribute to win for the Mariners," Iwakuma wrote. "Me and my family love [the] Mariners and the city of Seattle, so we're happy to stay here!"
In six seasons with Seattle, Iwakuma has a 63-39 record and 3.42 ERA in 150 games, including 136 starts. He was an American League All-Star in 2013, threw a no-hitter in '15 and was voted the Mariners' Pitcher of the Year by the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in '13 and '16.
Since joining the Mariners in 2012, Iwakuma ranks fifth among qualified pitchers in the AL in fewest walks per nine innings (1.88), sixth in winning percentage (.618), eighth in ERA (3.42) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.86) and ninth in wins (63).
Iwakuma is seventh on the Mariners' all-time list in wins, eighth in strikeouts and quality starts and 12th in starts and innings pitched.
The Mariners are expected to add further pitching this winter, so there's not a lot of pressure on Iwakuma to return by the start of the season. The club already has veterans James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Miranda returning, as well as young rotation contenders Andrew Moore and Marco Gonzales.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.