Iwakuma is right. The right-hander is competing with Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi, Kevin Millwood, and Erasmo Ramirez for one of the three spots in the rotation remaining behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. The Mariners signed him to a one-year deal out of Japan.
"He's right there with everybody else," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I felt like he was better today. He was down and he did a better job of mixing up his pitches as the game wore on, and that's what we're looking to see."
Iwakuma lasted just one inning in his Cactus League debut against the Padres, throwing 35 pitches and giving up three hits. He looked much better in his second start, a 52-pitch effort against the Dodgers that saw him give up four hits and two runs.
Against the A's, Iwakuma allowed four runs on four hits, including two doubles, in the first inning. He pitched two scoreless frames before allowing another run in the fourth.
"I think if you look at his last few outings, he has had better stuff and he's staying down in the zone," Wedge said. "He still needs to move forward [with] regards to his total game, but we've seen some good indicators."
Iwakuma said he had better results in the later innings by throwing more curveballs and elevating pitches to keep the hitters off balance. He added that he feels like he is pitching better each time he takes the mound, and said the problem on Friday was not the quality of his pitches, as much as it was his pitching sequence.
Additionally, Iwakuma, who missed several months last year with arm problems, said health is not an issue.
"No problem," he said in English.