Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters covering spring training Saturday that it’s unlikely neither Hisashi Iwakuma nor Tiajuan Walker will recover sufficiently from injuries in time to be in Seattle’s rotation by Opening Day. The Mariners commence their 38th season March 31 against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.
Iwakuma, who finished third in last year’s American League Cy Young voting, will have his right middle finger in a splint for another three weeks before throwing. Walker has been shut down for up to a week due to right shoulder inflammation.
McClendon said the injuries are presenting opportunities for other potential starters, but did not get into specifics.
“It’s a little bit of a setback,” McClendon said Friday. “We’ll just have to continue forward.”
The Mariners have been in the market for a veteran pitcher for the third spot in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma. They have youngsters Walker, James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez as the likeliest candidates for the fourth and fifth slots.
The best available free agent starter left in the market is Ervin Santana, to whom the Mariners have been linked in speculation throughout the winter. ESPN analyst Jim Bowden suggested Friday that if the Mariners signed Santana and fellow free agent former Mariners DH Kendrys Morales, they would become contenders for the AL West crown.
McClendon confirmed that Felix Hernandez will receive the start on Opening Day. It will be the seventh Opening Day start of his career.