Patience Pays Off For Iwakuma
The Hisashi Iwakuma story is one of recovery, consistency and quietly becoming one of the very best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball.
The numbers as a starter for the Seattle Mariners are impressive: 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 2012, and 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 2013. Even more impressive is the rehabilitation “Kuma” did in 2012 as he recovered from shoulder problems he dealt with in 2011 during his final season with the Rakuten team in Japan. The arm issues forced him to miss over two months during the 2011 season.
Fully aware of his arm problems, the Mariners signed him anyway. When he reported to 2012 training camp in Peoria, AZ, his shoulder weakness was apparent. General Manager Jack Zduriencik said, “Our training staff did a great job. Congratulations to them for getting this guy healthy. They put him on a very specific training program to strengthen his shoulder.”
He pitched sparingly in Cactus League games and he started the regular season as the last man in the bullpen. Jack added, “There wasn’t pressure to get him into the starting rotation right away. He was able to take the time necessary to rebuild the strength in his arm.” As a result, Kuma pitched in relief just twice in April and three times in May.
Finally on July 2, all the hard work in the training room and in the bullpen paid off for Kuma and the Mariners. Zduriencik added, “When the opportunity to start presented itself, he did a great job. The new training program worked for him. Since then, he has been one of the best in the game.”
Even though he was bothered by a blister on his middle finger over the first few weeks of the 2013 season, Iwakuma failed to complete at least five innings in only one start. His work didn’t go unnoticed around the American League, as evidenced by his selection to the 2013 A.L. All-Star team.
His traditional stats in 2013 (14 wins, 2.66 ERA) and advanced stats (1.006 WHIP, 6.9 WAR) just begin to tell the story.
Congratulations to Kuma and the Mariners training staff! His dedication and hard work in the first half of 2012, paved his road to recovery and success.