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Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma out 4-6 weeks with finger injury following training mishap

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(USA Today)

Spring workouts haven't officially begun for the Seattle Mariners, but they're already dealing with a problematic injury to a significant member of their starting rotation.

According to The News Tribune's Bob Dutton, right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma — who was selected as an all-star and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last season — is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after being diagnosed with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand. The injury occurred about three weeks ago during a workout in California, and the 32-year-old hurler admits it didn't happen under usual circumstances.

“We were doing some baseball drills, working out with ex-teammates,” he said Wednesday through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I jumped for a ball, and unconsciously grabbed the netting (on a protective movable screen).

“My right (middle) finger got caught in the net, and I pulled it. I knew it was injured. I didn’t think it was a major thing. I rested my finger for about a week and started playing catch again, long toss as always.

“I thought it was good, but the pain didn’t go away.”

Well, it's not exactly throwing your back out sneezing or falling over the dog, but it's still an unusual way to get injured. After all, the netting is there to protect pitchers from injury, not chew up their fingers and screw up their offseason workouts.

Thankfully, it's not anticipated that Iwakuma's finger will require surgery, but the Mariners say he won't be allowed to pick up a baseball for the next three weeks. Given that we're approaching the midway point in February and camp is on the cusp of opening, that's a significant setback.

If all goes as planned, Iwakuma will be back throwing a baseball by the second week of March. From there he'll need a few days, maybe even a couple weeks just to get back to where he hoped to be starting spring training, and then the real spring preparation starts from the beginning. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Iwakuma could be ready for the start of the season, but he'd have to cut a few corners to get there. It's unlikely the Mariners would be willing to take those risks for the three or four extra starts.

And again, this is all assuming a best case scenario in his recovery.

Assuming Iwakuma isn't ready, rookie Taijuan Walker becomes a virtual lock to join Felix Hernandez in the rotation. Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi and recently signed Scott Baker would wage battle for the next three positions. That's an awful lot of uncertainty on the eve of camp, especially in the starting rotation. It would seem Iwakuma's injury has the potential to take the air out of a big offseason in a hurry if things don't break in the right direction, though it's always possible they'll make another splash somewhere to add more depth.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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