40,000 expected for tonight’s Supreme Court, plus lots of pitching news from McClendon

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners

It’s “Supreme Court” tonight at Safeco Field and the Mariners are expecting a crowd of 40,000, which should make for a fun spectacle when Felix Hernandez takes the mound for his first home start of the year.

The first 25,000 fans through the gates will receive a yellow Supreme Court T-shirt and K-card to wave every time Hernandez gets a two-strike count, as normally happens in the special King’s Court section down the left field line.

It’s always an event when The King is on the mound and he’s been outstanding this season with a 2-0 start and 1.88 ERA in wins at Anaheim and Oakland. Hernandez has never gone 3-0 in his first three starts of the season. If he does, the Mariners will equal their third-best start in franchise history at 6-3.

Manager Lloyd McClendon has never witnessed a King’s Court, but he knows the score.

 “I hope they’re holding up a lot of strikeout signs,” he said. “I’m excited to see Felix pitch. He’s throwing the ball extremely well. I couldn’t be happier. And hopefully it’ll continue tonight.”

McClendon takes nothing for granted though.

“Obviously when you’ve got your guy on the mound, you feel good about the matchup going in,” he said. “But you still have to go out and perform. We all know that Felix is very good, but we also know he’s not going to win it by himself. We’ve got to go out and perform, but we feel good about it.”

Erasmo Ramirez will pitch Saturday, Chris Young starts Sunday and Roenis Elias is slated for Monday’s series opener in Texas as Seattle opens a seven-game road trip. McClendon said the team still hasn’t determined who will start Tuesday with James Paxton now on the DL.

McClendon said both Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan threw well in Minor League starts on Wednesday. He said a decision would likely come in the next 24 hours. Reading between the lines, it sounded like McClendon was leaning toward bringing Beavan up for at least one start to give Walker a little more time to prepare.

“One thing we have to be careful about with this process, when we do decide if it’s Walker or somebody else is, we want to be cautious with Taijuan and make sure he’s ready to compete at this level,” McClendon said. “When I talk about competing, the game is a little bit more stressful at this level than at the Minor League level in the number of pitches that you throw, the outs that you get at this level are harder to get. We have to take all that into account when we decide whether or not we’re going to bring him or somebody else. We’re still talking about all of that.

“It has nothing to do with his lack of big-league experience. I think it has everything to do with the lack of work in Spring Training and the amount of innings he had because of the injury in Spring Training. We have to make sure that if he’s the guy we’re going to bring, then he’s got to be ready to compete at this level and there are no bars or limitations.”

On the injury front, Paxton had an injection Thursday and McClendon said it’ll now be “another 7-8 days before they re-evaluate and start a rehab program with him.”

Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session on Saturday – an expected 50 pitches — and is still “a couple bullpens away from live action. We need to build his pitches up before we get him out and doing that.”

McClendon said Brandon Maurer ideally will be moved into the starting rotation for Triple-A Tacoma after striking out nine in 3 1/3 innings of relief on Thursday, with the goal of building his innings up as well after missing much of spring with a back injury.

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