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Vote: Should Felix Hernandez or James Paxton be the Mariners’ Opening Day starter?

Felix Hernandez has been the Mariners' Opening Day starter each season since 2009. (AP)
LISTEN: Who should start for the Mariners on opening day?

It has been a long time since anybody other than Felix Hernandez has been considered to start Opening Day for the Mariners, let alone actually get the ball in that first game. That could change in a few short months, however.

Moore: In Felix’s best interests, King’s Court has to go

James Paxton was the Mariners’ best starting pitcher in 2017, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 136 innings over 24 starts. Hernandez, however, posted his highest ERA (4.36) since 2006 and struggled with injuries to the point that he could only make 16 starts.

That has opened the door for debate on whether the 29-year-old Paxton should start Seattle’s season opener, which would be the first time since 2008 that anybody other than Hernandez, who will turn 32 in April, throws the Mariners’ initial pitch of the season.

Who do you think should start the first game, set for March 29 at Safeco Field against the Cleveland Indians and reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber? Vote in our Twitter poll below, then read what some of the hosts of 710 ESPN Seattle had to say on the matter.

Danny O’Neil: “You’ve got $50 million (still owed to Hernandez). He’s gonna be on this staff for two more years. There’s a risk to embarrassing or making him feel unwanted or underappreciated. Felix should start Opening Day because it really doesn’t make that much of difference. James Paxton, whether he starts the first or second game, is really immaterial to the outcome of the season. The upside of having Paxton as your Opening Day starter is so greatly outweighed by the potential downside (with Hernandez).”

Jim Moore: “I still feel like Paxton should be the Opening Day starter. I feel like he has earned that. I don’t sense that Felix has been quite on the same page (with the things) that the Mariners want him to do.”

Mike Salk: “It’s a hard one for me, because if I were (Mariners manager) Scott Servais I would be really, really tempted to go with James Paxton. He’s the future, he’s your guy, he’s supposed to be growing into being your horse, and it would send a message to Felix Hernandez that you don’t get to run this organization anymore. Things have changed. I just don’t think that’s how you manage a baseball team. I think Felix has pitched in this organization and made sacrifices for this organization since 2005. If you do want to succeed this year, you can’t lose Felix Hernandez. And I think if you don’t start him for Opening Day and you embarrass him (by doing) what they did in 2008 when Erik Bedard started (Opening Day) – that team lost 100 games and it was torpedoed from the inside out. I can’t do it.”

Brock Huard: “To me it’s a proactive deal and it’s TBD. My starter for game No. 1 against Corey Kluber right now is TBD. That’s not an insult and I’m sorry, but after the last two seasons, unfortunately they have been injury-riddled for (Hernandez). I would love to see James Paxton earn that opportunity to do it, (but) this is Felix’s job to lose.”

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