Meeting with Dodgers just another start for Iwakuma

Righty enjoys facing Maeda, but downplays facing team that backed away from signing him

Meeting with Dodgers just another start for Iwakuma

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hisashi Iwakuma acknowledged it was special to pitch against Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda, a friend of his from Japan, in Monday's 6-3 Cactus League victory for the Mariners at Camelback Ranch. But the veteran right-hander downplayed any thoughts on facing the team that backed away from a $45 million agreement with him in December.

"I have no feelings toward the past. This is just another game," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki after facing the Dodgers for the first time since they withdrew their free-agent bid over concerns about the health of his pitching arm.

Indeed, this seemed just a normal spring game, with Iwakuma allowing eight hits and three runs over 4 1/3 innings while working his pitch count up to 79 on a 90-degree afternoon. He's scheduled for two more starts before the Mariners open regular-season play April 4 in Texas, and that preparation was more on his mind than past dealings with the Dodgers.

Though the Dodgers docters reportedly had concerns, the Mariners hadn't seen any red flags in their own season-ending physical exam, and they jumped at the chance to bring the 34-year-old back on a one-year deal that guarantees him $12 million, with a chance to add two more seasons and up to about the $45 million overall level if he stays healthy and reaches maximum inning levels each year.

Iwakuma's biggest concern Monday was an inability to deal with designated hitter Justin Turner, who went 3-for-3 with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs in three at-bats against him.

"I made decent pitches, but he made me pay," Iwakuma said.

Maeda, 27, is seven years younger than Iwakuma, but the two worked out together in the offseason and have maintained close contact this spring and "were motivated" to face each other for the first time.

"He pitched a great game," Iwakuma said. "He got in trouble early on, but he made his adjustments, changed speed in the second inning and on. It's the first time I've ever faced him in an official game -- or any game period -- and it was kind of fun."

Iwakuma has adopted something of a mentor role for his younger country mate.

"I shared my opinions and advice, if he wants to take it that way," Iwakuma said. "This is his first year and my fifth season, so just general ideas. The mound is a little stiffer here, the ball is a little different, stuff like that we talked about."

But at the end of the day, this was simply another step in the process of preparing for the season, and Iwakuma said he achieved what was needed, though he did have another flareup of his seemingly annual spring issue with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

"I was able to reach 79 pitches today and was able to pitch in and out and up and down," he said, "so overall I think I got something out of today's start."

And for Mariners manager Scott Servais, that was exactly what he needs to see from the steady right-hander, who figures to be Seattle's No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez.

"Kuma was pretty good," said Servais. "He got a couple balls up, but for the most part, he does what he does."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.