Eleven games into the 2012 season, the Seattle Mariners are 6-5. In those eleven games, every member of the opening day 25-man roster has appeared at least once, with the exception of one player. Hisashi Iwakuma, who many expected to provide stability and experience in the Mariner rotation in 2012, has yet to pitch this season.
Why is that? It seems as if the M's have buried Iwakuma in their bullpen. One could make the argument that the M's haven't needed him. But since every other reliever has pitched at least twice (with the exception of the newly recalled Charlie Furbush), there clearly have been chances for Iwakuma to get involved. However, Eric Wedge has opted for Lucas Luetge or Erasmo Ramirez in situations where Iwakuma could have contributed.
This is alarming. It's especially alarming since the Mariners pay Iwakuma more than anyone else in the bullpen besides Brandon League. Iwakuma represents a completely wasted $1.5 million so far this year.
Iwakuma not pitching also completely contradicts the typical Mariner strategy, especially in a year that no one really gives a crap about like 2012. Following blowing money on a wild card contract, the M's almost always try to milk all the value they possibly can out of that particular player. We say it with Carlos Silva. It happened with Milton Bradley, Richie Sexson, and its happening now with Chone Figgins. So far at least, it seems like no one cares about Iwakuma's contract, the ninth-biggest on the team.
With all due respect to Wedge, why hasn't Iwakuma pitched yet? It seems bone-headed to me. This guy was the best pitcher in Japan in 2008. Yu Darvish pitched in Japan in 2008. Iwakuma could be a stud. He also could continue to suck like he did in spring training. But we don't know that yet! Wedge hasn't let him pitch!
What is Wedge waiting for with Iwakuma? A game where the Mariners have absolutely no chance early on? I mean, maybe. But that would only give Iwakuma free reign rot screw up and not feel bad about it.
And it's not like the alternatives are too much better. Lucas Luetge? Steve Delabar? Charlie Furbush? Those names don't exactly excited anyone (unless you're Yoenis Cespedes, in which case Steve Delabar excites you immensely). Why has Delabar pitched three times and Luetge twice? Why do I have the feeling that when one of the M's starters gets rocked early on that Wedge will turn to Furbush instead of Iwakuma?
Maybe Iwakuma will suck. Maybe he'll get hit all over the place and prove he was a waste of money. That would annoy me, but at least Mariner fans would know that Iwakuma in fact sucks. At the moment, we don't know that. All we have to go on is his terrible spring and awful outing against the Yomiuri Giants, where he gave up six runs in four innings.
That game against Yomiuri basically doomed Iwakuma. It buried him in the roster. It solidified him as player number 25. All of a sudden, the best pitcher in the second-best league in the world in 2008 is the worst player on one of the worst teams in the best league in the world. That just doesn't make sense, regardless of injury or velocity concerns.
Hisashi Iwakuma needs to pitch. Mariner fans need to know whether that $1.5 million dollars was a waste or not. It does the Mariners a disservice to have a guy just sitting in the pen wasting away. The M's have young pitchers like Chance Ruffin who would love the chance to pitch in the majors again. But until the M's know what Iwakuma can do, they can't make progress with Ruffin or the recovering Shawn Kelley. The M's need to throw Iwakuma into the game this week, otherwise he needs to go on the DL or be released, because he's so far just a waste of space. And young teams trying to take steps forward can't afford to waste time. Go M's.