Recently it was announced that Blake Beavan had won a job in the ' starting rotation, and that Hisashi Iwakuma would work out of the bullpen. I don't think many people were thrilled by this - people are interested in Iwakuma, and see him as a starter. People are less interested in Beavan, who couldn't be more if he tried. The expectation was that Iwakuma would start, so on some level it's disappointing that he won't, at least at the beginning.
We don't know exactly why the Mariners made this decision. We know why the Mariners said they made this decision, but the Mariners have no obligation to be completely honest. With that said, this is somewhat troubling. From Greg Johns:
Iwakuma said he looked at video after the game and saw that his elbow was lower than normal, so he could be dealing with a mechanics issue. He insisted his shoulder was fine, which was something that bothered him for several months last season.
"I don't feel any problem with the shoulder, but for the [radar] gun, I expect more speed," Iwakuma said. "So I need to work on that."
Iwakuma got knocked around by the Yomiuri. The Giants would've been more familiar with Iwakuma than the Mariners were with D.J. Houlton, but Iwakuma was bad, or at least his results were bad. Curious, Iwakuma went to the video and observed a lower arm slot.
We can't confirm a lower arm slot. We can't say too much about Iwakuma's arm slot in Arizona, or his arm slot in Japan. Iwakuma, obviously, insists that his shoulder is great. But you know what leads to a lowered arm slot and reduced velocity? Shoulder problems. Shoulder fatigue, or something worse. That isn't all that leads to those two things, but it's a leading cause, and of course Iwakuma has had shoulder issues before, most recently in 2011.
If it's a bright side you want, Iwakuma has two walks and ten strikeouts this month between Japan and the Cactus League. His problem has been hits, and hits fluctuate. Maybe there's not much going on. Maybe Iwakuma is mostly fine, and just in need of a little mechanical tweak.
But maybe there's something more than that. Iwakuma's shoulder is the biggest reason why he lost so much money between consecutive offseasons. Now we have Iwakuma remarking that his arm slot and velocity were down a little bit. You don't want to hurry to connect the dots, but it's easy to visualize a nasty image.