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Iwakuma still uncertain on specific return date

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Injured Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma did some dry work on a bullpen mound Sunday, going through his throwing motion first without a ball and then using a towel wrapped around his hand.

"I'm feeling very good," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "Condition wise, I'm great, besides the finger."

The standout right-hander is waiting for a doctor's reexamination of the strained tendon on the middle finger of his throwing hand this coming week before getting a better grip on when he might be able to start actually throwing a baseball again.

"He's coming along fine," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "After he sees the doctor, we'll see where we are. We're just trying to keep him in the best physical shape that we can at this point."

The initial report was Iwakuma would be sidelined 4-6 weeks from the start of camp and McClendon said he didn't think anything had changed to this point.

Iwakuma injured the finger when he caught it in protective netting as he leaped up to catch a ball while doing drills in California prior to reporting to camp. After finishing third in the American League Cy Young voting last year, Iwakuma had hoped to get off to another good start this year. But it's unlikely he'll be ready by Opening Day, given he's been unable to throw at all yet this spring.

Sunday's drills were designed to at least help keep his arm in throwing shape. But clearly this isn't the way he wants to spend Spring Training, watching from the sidelines as his teammates prepare.

"To be honest, it's hard to wait a second from throwing the ball," he said. "But I have to do what I have to do. I have to respect what the doctor says and be patient now and do what I can for now. You look forward to coming back as soon as possible, but at the same time, you don't want to rush anything. So we kind of have to play it by ear."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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