Felix throws for first time today, plus other updates
With the Mariners, there’s not a lot of drama when it comes to announcing who’ll be on the hill at Safeco Field when the season kicks off March 6 against the Angels. Hernandez is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his first seven Opening Day starts and it would take some bad news to sidetrack him from what would be his seventh straight opener.
Knowing he’s lining up for April 6, the Mariners have already plotted out his full spring schedule, starting with Thursday’s initial bullpen. Hernandez is the last of the Mariners hurlers – except for injured lefty James Paxton – to take the mound, but he’s long been approved for his own schedule.
“I trust my veterans,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “They’ve been through it, they know what they’re doing. It’s still my job to monitor and make sure they’re moving in the right direction. But I don’t have any issues. They go at it the right way and their track record speaks for itself.”
Nobody’s track record is better than Hernandez’s. He’s been remarkably durable as his streak of six straight seasons with 200-plus innings and 200-plus strikeouts is fourth longest in Major League history behind only Tom Seaver (nine) and Roger Clemens and Walter Johnson (seven each).
So, yes, there is some flexibility with his work program. But, no, there is nothing left to chance by Hernandez, who knows his routine as well as anyone.
“I talk to the pitching coach and Lloyd, we count the days back from Opening Day and figure out how many starts I’ll do in Spring Training and when I want to throw the first bullpen and live BP,” Hernandez said. “We have everything figured out. It’s definitely a plan.”
Hernandez’s schedule is the least of McClendon’s concerns.
“He’s traditionally a slow starter in Spring Training. Actually I think this is probably a little early for him,” McClendon said. “But he’s feeling good.”
Hernandez will throw another bullpen later this week, then begin tossing live batting practice next week.
In other news:
— Cactus League play opens March 4 when the Mariners face the Padres at Peoria Stadium, but the club will play an intersquad game on its main practice field on Monday as a warmup.
— McClendon said Willie Bloomquist will likely see more time as the backup first base candidate than Rickie Weeks, who will concentrate more on learning the outfield this spring. That leaves Chris Taylor and Brad Miller focusing strictly on the shortstop competition.
“They both saw significant time last year and only one of them can play short as this team shapes up,” McClendon said. “I like both guys. They both bring a lot to the table. I think Chris is probably a little bit ahead of the game defensively and Brad is probably ahead of the game offensively. It’s a nice combination and let’s see what happens. … If we don’t have injuries, I doubt that we can take them both.”
— Left-hander James Paxton continues rehabbing his bruised left forearm and is “progressing fine,” according to McClendon. “He feels good. They just want to wait until the first of the week to have him throw.”
— Versatile prospect Patrick Kivlehan brought three gloves to camp – an infield, outfield and first base mitt – and is waiting to see how things play out. Though he’s been listed as an outfielder by the club, Kivlehan worked at first base in the first full-squad workout.