PEORIA, Ariz. -- Injured All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma played catch from 45 feet for six to seven minutes on Monday as he continues to make his way back from a six-week layoff because of a sprained finger tendon.
Iwakuma, 32, expects to continue to play catch this week, and will increase the intensity and distance starting next Monday when he throws without tape on his injured finger.
"It's getting better day by day," he said. "I don't have that range of motion yet and I don't know how long it will take, but it's getting there. It's a slow progression."
The right-hander has been throwing a tennis ball and stills need to build up arm strength. He'll eventually build up to long toss and bullpen sessions before beginning Minor League rehab starts, likely in April. He's expected to start the season on the disabled list.
"Today was the first day, so I wanted to go out there and see where I was at and go from there," he said.
Mariners grant Baker's request for release
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners granted veteran starter Scott Baker his release from the team per his request after offering him a job with the Triple-A Rainiers, the club announced following Monday's game against the White Sox.
Baker allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in 12 Cactus League innings this spring. He walked seven batters and recorded one strikeout.
The veteran was competing for a spot in the rotation behind Hernandez, Ramirez and Paxton.
Elias to get one more shot to make lasting impression
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Left-handed starter Roenis Elias will get one more chance to earn a spot in the big league rotation when he takes the mound later this week.
Elias threw a light bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled to throw on flat ground on Wednesday. He expects to pitch Friday night against the Rockies at Peoria Stadium.
"It doesn't matter who I pitch against, but I'm going to be ready to go Friday," Elias, 25, said in Spanish. "First of all, I am very grateful to the Mariners for having me here and giving me a chance to make the team. I'm really happy with the way things have gone. I'm feeling great physically, and I'm getting my innings."
Elias allowed four hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts against the Rockies in his last start and sports a 2.04 ERA in during his five Cactus League outings. Elias, who has never pitched above Double-A ball and is in camp as a non-roster Minor League invitee, appears to be in the mix for one of the two final spots in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton.
"I'm trying to win a job and it feels like they are giving me a chance to do it, but you never know how baseball is and what they are thinking," he said. "Of course, I would love start in the Major Leagues, but it's up to them."
Elias defected from Cuba on a boat in 2010 and has not seen his family since. He says his friendships with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Texas center fielder Leonys Martin have helped him cope with the pressures that come with being in big league camp.
"They are all very encouraging and want to see me win a job," Elias said. "We have to be like a family because all of our family is back home. We have to stick together."
Tough decisions lead to difficult conversations
PEORIA, Ariz -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon did not anticipate making any moves on Monday, but he knows the time to finalize his 25-man roster is coming soon.
"It's just a matter of logistics at this point and getting a couple of things ironed out," he said.
The Mariners are yet to announce the starting rotation behind Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez, and there are still spots in the bullpen to be determined. The Mariners have not named a starting shortstop or the starters in the outfield, although McClendon did say the team "is pretty close with where we want to be as far as the outfield is concerned."
"Guys have performed great this spring," McClendon said. "When you get to this point, the cuts are really tough. It's not fun delivering that message, but we have to do what we have to do. We have to move on and get ready for the season."
The clock is ticking. The Mariners will open the season against the Angels in Anaheim on March 31.
"In the end, they are all for positive reasons, but it never gets any easier," the manager said. "It's tough. You don't like delivering the message that your dream is not there and you have to keep working. It's no fun."
• Taijuan Walker ,who was recently shut down because of inflammation in the bursa of his right shoulder, will pitch three innings on Tuesday. He pitched in a Minor League game on Saturday.
Stephen Pryor and Brandon Maurer are also scheduled to pitch Tuesday.
• Outfielder Corey Hart was held out of the lineup for the fourth straight day on Monday with stiffness in his right forearm. He turned 32 on Monday.
• Every position player should expect some playing time during the first week of the season.
McClendon said he believes "even an 0-for-4 serves its purpose," likely because the repetitions and the comfort level that comes with them could pay off "down the road."
"Having been a bench player for most of my career, I think it's important that you try to get all of your guys in fairly quick to give them some at-bats early, because as you continue to move forward, obviously, those at-bats don't come as often," McClendon said. "You don't want guys sitting for a week and not playing. I think you will see in the first week that everybody will have at-bats, and I think that's important, particularly if you are asking guys on the bench to come in and win a game for you late."