Felix Hernandez will take the mound Thursday night for his 10th straight opening day start, but Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. explained why this opening day won’t be a typical one for Seattle’s ace.
“Felix, he had three outings [in Cactus League play] and they were all good,” Stottlemyre said during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Groz and Tom at Safeco Field. “We’ve talked about a lot of the changes that we wanted to make, but the ball was coming out good. It’s not going to be a typical opening day start for him. He’s going to have a pitch count. It’s not going to be a matter of him going out and being ineffective and we go to the bullpen. We’re still building pitches and innings, and ups and downs.”
When Stottlemyre talks about “change,” what does that mean for Hernandez in terms of his approach? In short, it means more efficient pitching. (Though it’s a bit more complicated than that, as 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer explains here.)
“I don’t think [Hernandez] likes the word ‘change’,” Stottlemyre said. “Anytime somebody’s been able to impact a game and be as big a part of the game as he has, and have to do something different, it requires a mindset. And sometimes it takes longer for some guys than it does others. And it’s taken a while for him to buy into the fact that, ‘I need to pitch to contact, I need to get in good counts, I have weapons to get the ball on the ground, I need to do that early and not try to wipe guys out early in counts.’ And he turns that dial up sometimes too early when he doesn’t have to; it gets him in trouble. And so we’ve asked him to be a little more efficient, pitch a little more to contact, and he has those weapons to do it.”