Matt Shoemaker was a revelation for the Los Angeles Angels last year, and the Seattle Mariners got to see that firsthand.
Shoemaker looks to continue his success against the Mariners and give the Angels another strong pitching performance in the finale of a season-opening series Wednesday night in Seattle.
Shoemaker started last year in the bullpen, but ended up going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 27 games - 20 starts. The right-hander won all seven decisions in his last eight games while compiling a 1.29 ERA, and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.
That's reason enough for Los Angeles (1-1) to think Shoemaker can be a mainstay in the rotation in 2015. He certainly looked capable in his last spring training start Thursday, holding the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run in 6 1-3 innings. He had given up four runs in six innings against them five days earlier.
"I thought the crispness of my pitches was a little bit better this time," Shoemaker said. "We did what we wanted - execute the game plan."
He's done that against Seattle (1-1), going 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in four games - three starts. He limited the Mariners to one run in 7 2-3 innings of an 8-1 win on Sept. 15 in his final outing of the regular season.
Shoemaker could draw some inspiration from C.J. Wilson, who allowed two hits in an eight-inning gem to beat the Mariners 2-0 on Tuesday.
The Angels, though, would like to get the bats going after totaling nine hits and three runs while striking out 20 times and drawing only three walks.
Mike Trout is 2 for 8 with a solo homer and double, but he's also struck out four times. The star center fielder could be in for another rough performance at the plate since he's 5 for 26 with one homer and seven strikeouts against scheduled starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma rarely has trouble with the Angels, especially at Safeco Field, where he is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in five career starts. The right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.75 ERA in nine overall meetings, but that defeat came opposite Shoemaker on Sept. 15, when he gave up seven runs in 3 1-3 innings.
Iwakuma went 15-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 2014 to set a career high in wins, while tying Felix Hernandez for the team lead.
Iwakuma lasted just two innings in a minor league outing Thursday, as he was reportedly bothered by a blister on his right index finger.
"It just didn't make any sense to throw splits when you don't have to," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB's official website. "It gives that finger a little more time to heal. He's had this in the past. I looked at it and it looked fine. He should be ready to go."
Robinson Cano is off to a slow start, going 1 for 8 with one RBI in two games. That RBI is his only one in his last 12 games against the Angels, and he's batting .135 (5 for 37) in his last 10 matchups.
Seattle may have Seth Smith back in the lineup after giving him a day off against a lefty Tuesday. He went 3 for 3 with a triple, two doubles and two RBIs in Monday's 4-1 win, and is a .278 career hitter off right-handers compared to .205 versus southpaws.