Mariners starter Iwakuma makes spring debut against Rangers


Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma made his first start in a spring training game on Friday, allowing one run in two innings in his team’s 8-2 defeat to the Texas Rangers.

The 35-year-old gave up three hits and issued a walk while striking out one in his 26-pitch outing, recovering from his early struggle for control that saw him give up a double to Carlos Gomez with his first pitch and surrender the first run within another three.

Iwakuma picked up well from there as he got ahead in counts, throwing just one ball among his 11 second-innings pitches.

“I was awful in the bullpen and I went to get strikes rather than thinking about dealing with the batter,” said Iwakuma, who is starting his sixth season in the big leagues. “(From there) I could get an idea of the strength and timing I needed to get strikes. I have to improve from here, gradually.”

Seattle finished nine games behind Texas in the American League West last year, with Iwakuma going 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA against the team that counts Yu Darvish among its starters.

Norichika Aoki, his teammate last year, left for the Houston Astros ahead of this season and the outfielder’s new team could also provide a stiffer challenge this year after finishing two games behind the Mariners in the division.

“It’s not a bad thing to be facing them (Rangers) at this time of the year,” Iwakuma said. “I know the characteristics of the batters. I’m fine as long as I can attack them in the right manner during the season.”

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