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How Felix believes he can improve plus news and notes

By Shannon Drayer

While it may look like Felix Hernandez is just going about his business of getting ready for the season with the main goal to get his pitch count up and remain Felix, he is no different than any other pitcher in camp who is trying to improve. As good as he is, he knows he can be better. How so?

“It’s about staying one step ahead of the hitters and not becoming too predictable,” Felix Hernandez said about the importance of mixing up his pitches during the spring. (AP)

It is not about adding or improving a pitch at this point with Felix. It is about pitching smarter. He said something after Tuesday’s game that indicated this. When asked if he had thrown a 2-2 curve to Cliff Pennington for a strikeout he said that yes, indeed he had. He didn’t just confirm the pitch, however. He gave the reason why.

“Just trying to mix it up,” he said. “Not throw too many changeups with two strikes. Throw different pitches, see how that works.”

The changeup is deadly. Why wouldn’t he want to throw it with two strikes? It’s about staying one step ahead of the hitters and not becoming too predictable.

“I think it is known throughout the league he is going to go to the changeup more often than not,” said pitching coach Carl Willis, who was glad to see Felix try something else Tuesday with two strikes.

“It (the changeup) is so good they still can’t help but swing at it but it is something we talked about last year, using other pitches because really, any pitch he has he can use in any given count. It makes him a little less predictable, not falling into patterns. His stuff is too good across the board to pitch in patterns.”

The stuff is what the stuff is, but in order for Felix to throw any pitch in any count he has to believe each is as good as it is. The same confidence he has in his changeup he needs to have in his curve and slider if he is going to mix them in during these situations.

That is what he is working on now, and Willis likes what he sees in how Felix works.

“He’s a pleasure to work with,” Willis said. “He doesn’t have a problem trying new things. He is just that type of guy.”

Willis also pointed out that with Felix it is never just a matter of getting his work in.

“I think even here he knows that people come to see him pitch and he doesn’t want to disappoint,” he said. “He wants to go out and first do well for himself and the Seattle Mariners but also not disappoint anyone who is in the stands and came to see him pitch that day.”

It may be entertaining for the fans but ultimately it’s good work for Felix.

News and notes

The Mariners fell 4-2 to the Royals and managed just four hits in the loss. Hisashi Iwakuma looked strong, pitching a perfect three innings before giving up two runs on four hits in the fourth and final inning he pitched. Eric Wedge was not concerned as he said he was a little off with his pitches in that inning but generally has been very happy with what he has seen from Iwakuma this spring.

With the loss, the Mariners have now lost six of their last seven games.

A busy two days are coming up with a B game Thursday and split-squads on Friday. The B game will take place in Goodyear at 10 a.m. and feature pitchers Paxton, Walker, Loe, Capps and Noesi. We will broadcast the night game against the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Friday.

Casper Wells, who has been out of action since Saturday with a stiff neck, could return Thursday.

Heading into Wednesday’s game against Puerto Rico in the WBC, Alex Liddi had not struck out in the previous four games. He is 4 for 13 with three RBIs and two walks.

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