Iwakuma, Aoki display easy rapport in Mariners camp


Seattle Mariners’ right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma showed Tuesday just how much he appreciates having former Japan teammate Norichika Aoki with him in camp this year.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with him and it’s heartening,” Iwakuma said about his close friend, who is also a 34-year-old, fifth-year big leaguer.

Although the pair, who played for the national team that won the second World Baseball Classic in 2009, usually shares laughs in the clubhouse, Iwakuma took their act public after Tuesday’s practice, when the pitcher quizzed his teammate as if he were a reporter.

“You’re playing the full game tomorrow but what have you got to say about that?” Iwakuma asked Aoki, who is slated to have just a couple of at-bats in Wednesday’s preseason game.

“There’s no way I’m playing a full game right off the bat,” said Aoki with a laugh.

Earlier, Iwakuma threw a 27-pitch batting practice session against a group of young players who swung aggressively and struck just one ball that could be called a hit.

“I was able to check out my feel for my pitches with batters standing in,” Iwakuma said.

The pitcher is scheduled to appear in his first preseason game on Saturday against the Texas Rangers.

“I’m not yet game fit, so it would be good if I could adjust little by little in a real game,” he said.

Elsewhere, sormer Seattle star Ichiro Suzuki had a hit in his two at-bats for the Miami Marlins against Maimi University in Jupiter, Florida, appearing as a designated hitterand batting seventh.