PEORIA, Ariz. – Felix Hernandez took a big step toward returning to games Tuesday morning, throwing his first bullpen since getting hit on the right arm two weeks ago in a Mariners game against the Cubs. Originally scheduled to just throw fastballs his first time out, he successfully lobbied to throw a few curveballs and a changeup, as well.
“I wanted to get good work out of this one and it feels good,” he said after. “I’m happy with that bullpen.”
Felix said that he threw at mostly 70-80 percent but did up the intensity on a couple of pitches to test his arm. The results were good.
“Bottom line is it feels real good. Everything was fine, under control around the zone,” he said.
Felix on the hill. Sneaking in breaking balls in first pen. pic.twitter.com/2D3KQTkfRD
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 13, 2018
The plan now for Felix is to throw another bullpen on Thursday, and if all continues to go well he will enter games shortly after. Both he and the club believe he only needs two or three starts to get ready for the season.
“I’m telling you man, I will be ready,” he said. “I’ve done this before on purpose so I can do this. I need a few games and I will be fine.”
Felix is referring to the plan he has followed the past several years to get ready for games – start late in spring training and build up quickly. While the Mariners hoped to build him up slowly this year, that will not happen. It also seems unlikely Felix will get the opening day start, although club officials refuse to rule that out.
Doing the math, if the Mariners are willing to be slightly aggressive with Felix’s return and he pitches in a game Saturday, he could get three starts in before camp breaks and line up for game 3 of the regular season. James Paxton is currently lined up to start game 1.
We will see how this plays out but the most important thing now is he is one step closer to getting work in games.
Lineup! vs Rockies
Dee Gordon, CF
Mitch Haniger, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Mike Ford, 1B
Guillermo Heredia, LF
Taylor Motter, SS
David Freitas, C
Rob Whalen, RHP
Also scheduled to pitch: James Pazos, Dan Altavilla, Chasen Bradford, Art Warren.
• Marco Gonzales was re-evaluated after getting hit on the inside of the base of his right thumb in Monday night’s game, and the initial diagnosis has been confirmed. “He has a contusion,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s sore, but it is not going to stop him from keeping his arm going. Hopefully he should be good for his next start but we don’t know yet. He’s really sore, he’s got some swelling in there. It could have been a lot worse. We got lucky.”
• If you follow me on Twitter (and you should: @shannondrayer), then perhaps you saw my tweet about another starter to keep an eye on.
While the focus has been on Felix and Ramirez getting ready for start of the season, Hisashi Iwakuma has been progressing quietly toward a return. Doing well in his throwing program, should throw his first bullpen late next week. #Mariners
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 12, 2018
• Scott Servais was none too pleased about two base running gaffes Monday night. Kyle Seager was thrown out trying to steal third and Jean Segura had his own mistake on the base paths. Base running is a focus once again this spring. They’ve employed new drills and it is talked about in meetings, but in the end it’s about decision making. “Some really poor decisions tonight,” Servais said on the field after the game. “You can talk about base running all you want. We can practice it. It’s decision making. And tonight the decisions were not good.”