Hisashi Iwakuma: Finger better

The Seattle Mariners received good news when pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was cleared to have the protective splint removed from the injured middle finger on his throwing hand.

"The finger is very stiff right now, but the good thing is I am pain free," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki on Tuesday.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said Iwakuma would start slowly by throwing tennis balls on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If the right-hander doesn't experience a setback, he could begin throwing baseballs on Monday. Iwakuma, who finished third in American League Cy Award voting last season after posting a 14-6 record and a 2.66 ERA, is looking forward to returning to the field after missing more than a month.

"It's hard to say being in my situation right now," he said. "I want to come back soon, but I don't want to push it and have any more setbacks. It's a long season and I look forward to finishing strong. That's all I have in mind."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.