Felix moved to Tuesday; Paxton aiming for 17th
Felix Hernandez’s first Cactus League start has been moved up a day to Tuesday, meaning the Mariners ace will face the Rockies in Scottsdale in his spring debut, and manager Lloyd McClendon also announced positive news on injured starter James Paxton as Seattle’s pitching plans continue to fall into place.
Hernandez initially had been slated to face the Rockies on Wednesday in Peoria, but McClendon adjusted the pitching rotation Saturday.
Newly acquired left-hander J.A. Happ is slated for his Mariners debut on Sunday against the Reds in Goodyear, Taijuan Walker will make his second spring start Monday against the Indians in Peoria and Hernandez will now follow on Tuesday in a 1:10 p.m. PT start at Salt River Fields.
McClendon also said Paxton will likely make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday, March 17 against the White Sox in Glendale as he works back from a bruised forearm that has sidelined him since before the start of camp.
Paxton threw his first bullpen session on Friday and will have one more bullpen early next week, throw one live batting practice session and then transition into games.
“He threw extremely well. Really, really well yesterday,” McClendon said. “He feels great.”
If Paxton does progress without any delays, he’d be on line to make four spring starts before regular-season play begins.
The Mariners could potentially go with four starters the first week since they have an off day on April 9 after their initial three-game homestand against the Angels.
“We’ve talked about it and really haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” McClendon said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. There’s a chance we could just go with four. It’s nice to have those off days early. We’ll see what happens.”
In other news Saturday:
— Willie Bloomquist didn’t have any issues with his surgically repaired knee after going 2-for-2 in his first Cactus League game on Friday and will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Reds, this time at first base, according to McClendon.
— Well-regarded middle infield prospect Ketel Marte committed four errors in two games on Thursday and Friday at second and shortstop, but McClendon said he wasn’t worried about the 21-year-old and thinks he’s just pressing early trying to make an impression.
“He’s a switch-hitter. He slashes it from both sides, he can steal bases. He’s going to hit and hit for a little power. And he plays the middle very well,” McClendon said. “There’s a lot to like. With a young player like Marte, they come to camp and want to impress and they probably think the manger is ticked off because they made an error. But that’s not the case. You just have to relax and play. I’ll keep running him out there. One of these days he’s going to catch one.”
— While the Mariners have a big group of left-handed relievers in camp and are looking to find a second southpaw to team with Charlie Furbush in the bullpen, it’s not set in stone that they have to go with two when the regular season opens.
“Is it a possibility we’d go with just one? Sure it is,” McClendon said. “We’ve got right-handers that can get lefties out. One in particular is [Danny] Farquhar. He’s devastating against left-handers. I prefer to have two because of the workload. But is it a 100 percent necessity, no.”
— It’s a split-squad day today with many of the regular veterans facing the D-backs at Peoria in a game with Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound. But several starters — including Kyle Seager — are headed to Glendale to face the White Sox with Jordan Pries getting the start.
Neither game is on ROOT Sports TV, but the Peoria game will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN radio in Seattle.
Here are the full lineups: