First it was the nine hits without a single strikeout in his first start of the season. Then it was a surprise shutdown on April 21st, leading to a callup of Roenis Elias from AAA Tacoma to bolster the rotation. That left him with a 6.61 ERA after only three games, which may cause you to poke your glasses up your nose except for the fact that his BABIP was at a career stable .288 while everything, just about everything else, had been much worse.
And now it could be another two weeks before he even throws a baseball again.
This is the ever-pleasant news from the Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton, who reported last night that Hisashi Iwakuma has been shut down for up to 14 days after experiencing continued stiffness while throwing in his recovery program. Iwakuma had first been sent to the DL back in April after the discovery of a strained right latissimus dorsi, which I quickly found in my browser's website history because I had searched for it almost exactly one year ago when James Paxton suffered the same fate. And unfortunately, it appears that Iwakuma's timetable may look very much like Paxton's from last season, which kept him from the bigs until August 2nd with a delicate and complicated healing process.
Now, the best case scenario would have Iwakuma beating Paxton's timeline with a recovery process aimed to bring him back to the club by mid-to-late June. However as Paxton illustrated last year, lat strains, which are often treated with rest rather than invasive surgery, don't always heal according to plan. Paxton suffered repeated setbacks after experiencing shoulder inflammation on his road to recovery, and former M's reliever Stephen Pryor had to have surgery after his torn lat muscle somehow grew a mind of its own and reattached itself to his triceps during the healing process, which has kind of terrifying implications for our material conceptions of medicine when you actually think about it. And to top it all off, don't forget that Iwakuma is almost ten years older than either of the folks named in this paragraph. Which is, um...how about Roenis Elias, folks?
Still, rest is the right course of action, especially for a pitcher like Iwakuma who has been dealing with minor shoulder issues since at least 2006. For now it's two or so weeks of eating sunflower seeds in the dugout followed by playing catch, leading to throwing from a mound, sim games, and finally minor league rehab starts. If all goes according to plan, Elias should be able to hold the fort down for however long Iwakuma needs to recover and return to his old self. But anything after that seems left to pure chance and a somewhat terrifying lack of starting depth for a team that was supposed to be built on pitching. Minor league options are sparse at best (Mike Montgomery?) and while there are certainly trade options on the table, should anything get too out of hand, you have to remember we had the chin here once already, DFA'ing him before he suddenly started putting up 3 win seasons for the first time in ten years.
Please get better, Kuma. Besides, you don't want that bear hat to go to waste, now do you?