Tough go for Felix, short go for McClendon in Mariners’ loss

Mar 31, 2015, 4:35 PM | Updated: 5:11 pm

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Felix Hernandez surrendering seven runs in 1 2/3 innings was not the only strange sight Tuesday. Turning around and seeing manager Lloyd McClendon standing behind us while talking to Felix in the clubhouse in the fourth inning was another. This is not like a big-league clubhouse, which is just steps away from the dugout. No, the clubhouse at Goodyear Ballpark is under the batters’ eye in center field. McClendon was not just dropping by.

“I got thrown out,” said a visibly perturbed McClendon as we all stared at him, momentarily having no idea why he would be there.

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Needless to say, we didn’t get to see the fireworks on the field as we were in the clubhouse with Felix, but McClendon volunteered the details.

“He threw behind Rickie twice,” McClendon said. “He gave the warning on the second one.”

Felix was clearly having trouble when he hit Cleveland’s Michael Brantley with a pitch in the second inning of the Mariners’ 8-6 loss. McClendon felt Rickie Weeks was targeted shortly after.

“I get it if you thought you have to protect your guy. Okay, fine – once,” McClendon said. “He throws it behind him. I mean behind him. Twice.”

Indians starter Bruce Chen clearly was not having the problems Felix was. When a control guy goes behind a hitter, chances are something is up. McClendon didn’t like that his guys were being thrown at and was particularly upset with the umpire’s reaction.

“(The warning) should have been issued on the first one, and if you issue a warning on the second one, obviously he thought he was throwing at him,” McClendon said. “If he’s throwing at him he should be ejected from the game, not warned. It makes no sense.”

Getting ejected from a spring game is no picnic. The clubhouses aren’t quite the accommodations teams have in the regular season and McClendon was particularly bothered that he couldn’t see the rest of the game as there was no TV. Not a good day for the skipper, who saw his ace get roughed up shortly before his ejection.

“He just told me he didn’t have his legs,” McClendon said of Felix’s short outing. “Somehow the workout he had kind of ruined his legs today for the game, but everything else is okay.”

Felix concurred.

“I couldn’t find my balance, I was falling back, couldn’t feel my legs, I don’t know,” he said. “I was not even turning as you could see. The mound was weird.”

Felix had a long talk with McClendon after he came out of the game. Usually when a pitcher exits a game early in the spring, he goes to the bullpen to throw additional pitches to keep his pitch count up. McClendon told Felix not to do this.

“He said, ‘I don’t care about results. I just want to make sure you feel fine,’ ” Felix said.

“I’m fine. Fine,” he added.

It was a good move on McClendon’s part not to force anything. With a pitcher so off in his mechanics, let alone wobbly-legged, more throwing may have caused him to overcompensate. Legs can be dealt with, no need to risk arm.

“My major concern is his health and he felt fine,” McClendon said. “The ball was coming out good, he just did not have his legs under him. He looked a little out of whack there.”

Despite the short outing, Felix said he has done enough and seen enough from his pitches this spring to feel confident he will be ready for Opening Day. It wasn’t the last spring start you want to have, but he is not worried.

“I am good where I am now and I think I am good enough,” he said.

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