Seattle Mariners

Iwakuma says Friday is just ‘another start’

The goal Friday for right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is to approach his start against Oakland as he would for any other game. And not to think about it possibly being his last appearance in a Mariners uniform.

“No difference,” he said. “I just look at it as another start. I just need to prepare for this start like I have for every start in the past. The rest will take care of itself.”

Iwakuma, 34, is a pending free agent who is completing his fourth season with the Mariners after pitching for 11 years in Japan’s Pacific League with Kintetsu and Rakuten.

He continues to maintain that he prefers to remain in Seattle, but offers little more on the subject. He is making $7 million this year and is seeking a multiyear contract.

“I feel the same,” he said. “No different from what I’ve said before. I like playing here in Seattle, and we’ll let the rest take care of itself.”

Club officials have, similarly, expressed interest in retaining Iwakuma and hold exclusive negotiating rights through the five days following completion of the World Series.

Iwakuma missed 2  1/2 months this season because of a strained back muscle that he suffered in a late-April workout. He enters Friday’s game at 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 19 starts.

Overall, Iwakuma is 47-25 with a 3.19 ERA in 110 games, including 96 starts, since joining the Mariners.

PLAYERS CHOICE FINALIST

Mariners’ outfielder Nelson Cruz is one of three finalists for the Players Choice Award as the American League’s Most Outstanding Player along with Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

The award is presented by the Major League Baseball Players Association and determined by a vote of its members, i.e., the players themselves. The winner will be announced Nov. 9 on MLB Network.

Seattle outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was not picked as a finalist for the AL Comeback Player despite his recovery from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that primarily affects joints and the spine.

The finalists are Prince Fielder (Texas), Kendrys Morales (Kansas City) and Alex Rodriguez (New York).

MORE AWARDS

The Mariners’ three primary individual awards will be presented Friday in an on-field ceremony by chairman Ryan Divish of the Seattle Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Chapter members recently voted to determine a player of the year, a pitcher of the year and an unsung hero. Last year’s recipients were Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Chris Young.

LOOKING BACK

It was 20 years ago — Oct. 2, 1995 — that Randy Johnson pitched a three-hitter in a 9-1 victory over the California Angels in a tiebreaker game to determine the American League West title at the Kingdome.

The victory boosted the Mariners to their first division crown and capped a remarkable late-season comeback. They trailed the Angels by six games on Sept. 9 before winning 15 of their final 20 games.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners’ Robinson Cano enters the weekend with a 13-game hitting streak, which is the longest active streak in the majors. … Kyle Seager got his 26th homer in Wednesday’s loss to Houston, setting a career high. He had 25 in 2014. … Nelson Cruz has 44 homers, which leaves him tied for the most in club history by a right-handed hitter. Jay Buhner had 44 in 1996. … Ketel Marte has hits in 15 of his last 17 games and is batting .329 (23 for 70) in that span.

ON TAP

The Mariners open their final series of the season at 7:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three games against Oakland at Safeco Field.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.67) will make, perhaps, his final start as a Mariner when when he faces Athletics righty Aaron Brooks (2-4, 7.26). Iwakuma will be a free agent after the season.

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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