Mariners notebook: Setback for Danny Hultzen, Felix Hernandez has final tuneup

Mar 9, 2016, 12:34 PM | Updated: 12:40 pm
Mariners manager Scott Servais is looking for Felix Hernandez to be more vocal with the pitchers. (...
Mariners manager Scott Servais is looking for Felix Hernandez to be more vocal with the pitchers. (AP)
(AP)

From the “I really hope this is nothing department,” concerning news from manager Scott Servais, who revealed Wednesday morning that Danny Hultzen has suffered what he called a setback. The plan was to get him into a game early this week, but Hultzen came up with shoulder stiffness after his live BP session Saturday.

“He’s in a holding pattern right now. I don’t know when he will be in a game. It’s too bad,” said Servais.

Related: Latest news, photos, video and more from Mariners spring training

Hultzen, who underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, labrum and capsule in October 2013, is in camp this year as a reliever. The hope was that the shoulder would better tolerate the shorter outings.

“It’s all about how he bounces back,” said Servais. “The day he gets out there he was moving along very good, and then he had a setback.”

Tough to see Hultzen suffer another setback. Hopefully it is very minor.

On a better note, Felix Hernandez looked great in his final tuneup before his 2016 Cactus League debut. Felix threw 29 pitches in a two-inning sim game, striking out four, walking one and not allowing a hit.

“Physically I feel really good, mechanics really good, too,” said Felix. “The pitches were there, too. Good command fastball, good breaking ball, good changeup.”

Steve Clevenger, who caught Felix, agreed.

“The breaking ball has the same arm action, the changeup was there – it was there the last time he threw his live BP. It was there where he wanted it. He had all of his pitches,” Clevenger said.

The highlight of the game was the rematch between Felix and Tyler O’Neill, who hit a home run off Felix in live BP and was a bit too demonstrative after it to Felix’s liking. Felix got his quiet revenge, striking O’Neill out to end the first and walking silently back to the dugout.

There was a light moment in the session when Felix yelled that he wasn’t happy with how Clevenger was calling balls and strikes. Now, if he is to be believed, there was method to what Clevenger was doing.

“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “Sometimes in the game he’s not going to do that and it put him back in the mentality that ‘Hey, let’s attack the zone.’ Sometimes he is not going to get those pitches and I wanted him to throw more pitches. He was making it look too easy so I had to call a couple of balls.”

So he was creating a situation?

“Definitely,” he said with a laugh. “One-hundred percent.”

It was a good throwing session and Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais had to have liked what they saw from Felix on the field. Beforehand in his morning meeting with the media, Servais indicated that they would like to see a little more from Felix off the field.

“The thing that I have really tried to impress upon Felix is it is time for Felix to pitch in the playoffs and to pull a few guys along with him. That’s what we are hoping for,” said Servais.

And what does pulling a few guys along with him look like? Servais said the process has already been set in motion.

“We have created in our chalk talks with our pitching every day, talking,” he explained. “Now we are a the point where we are in games and pitchers are talking about their outings. They are all in the room chiming in on different things that come up. Pitch sequences, certain game-situation type things. You are going to draw from his experience. He has been very open and willing to jump into those discussions and throw his viewpoint out, which is great. Felix is a great competitor with a great feel to pitch and really good at situational pitching, as well. That is the first thing that happens, and just to learn from his experiences.”

Felix appears to be receptive to speaking up more in the meeting setting.

“Chalk talk?” he answered brightly when asked about the morning sessions. “We just talk about our outings, what our approach is for every outing for the meetings. I’ve been talking a lot in the meetings. I am not a guy that talks a lot but I have been talking a lot.”

Felix is interested to see how his first postgame chalk talk goes, and that will come the day after his March 14 start. The plan going into that is to throw his normal flat ground bullpen and then three innings in the game Monday.

Lineup!

Ketel Marte, SS

Kyle Seager, 3B

Robinson Cano, 2B

Nelson Cruz, RF

Franklin Gutierrez, LF

Jesus Montero, 1B

Chris Iannetta, C

Gaby Sanchez, DH

Leonys Martin, CF

Taijuan Walker, P

Ketel Marte at the top of the order has been opening eyes. While the initial thought of this new group was to bat him lower in the order, it is looking more and more likely that we will see him near the top. I chatted with Marte this morning and noted that it looks like he got a little bigger in the offseason. He told me he put on 10-15 pounds. Why? He wants a bit more power – not to hit the ball out but for more doubles. He’d like to hit 40 doubles some day. Also of note in the lineup Nelson Cruz is playing his first game this spring in the outfield. Jesus Montero gets the start at first, with Dae-Ho Lee scheduled to replace him when he comes out of the game. Walker is scheduled to pitch three innings with Justin De Fratus, Jonathan Aro, Blake Parker, Cody Martin, Adrian Sampson and Paul Fry behind him. The game with the Royals will air on tape delay at 7:10 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Notes

• New pitch alert. You have to see ’em to believe ’em, as most never make it out of spring training, but Taijuan Walker is working on a two-seamer. “It is just something to show, because my changeup is kind of like a two-seam spin,” Walker said. “If I can just show a couple of two-seams that’s harder than my changeup then I feel like I can get a lot more swings and misses with my changeup.” He added that if he sees good movement and spin in the bullpen he might break the pitch out in a game.

• We had expected to see Guillermo Heredia in a game by now but it turns out he suffered a sprained ankle in a sliding drill recently. He was walking around the clubhouse this morning without a noticeable limp so it does not appear to be serious.

• On the relievers front, it looks like Charlie Furbush will throw one more sim game before the Mariners put him into a Cactus League game. Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook were seen by one of the team doctors yesterday, and it will be a while before we see them, however. “Scribner, we have a chance to see him before Cook,” said Servais. “Cook is probably going to be down for a little bit. Lat strain. He’s getting treatment on it, we will see where that goes.”

• The first cuts from camp are getting closer, and those decisions will be made with a lot of input. “We will have group meetings with the coaching staff and the front office on the weekends where we discuss where we are at as a group and make decisions accordingly,” said Servais. “I think it is really important that everybody has a voice. It is not just me and Jerry sitting down because we have a lot of new people here and we need to understand how decisions are made and how people value certain positions on a ballclub. That needs to come from Jerry and myself as far as relaying the message. Everybody gets a voice and a chance to express their opinion on players.”

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Mariners notebook: Setback for Danny Hultzen, Felix Hernandez has final tuneup