SHANNON DRAYER

Felix Hernandez shows he’s healthy, awaits word on whether he’ll get Mariners’ opening day start

Mar 24, 2018, 10:04 PM | Updated: Mar 25, 2018, 12:01 am
mariners, felix hernandez...
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has been changing his approach this offseason. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Despite the injury setback, Felix Hernandez was not willing to concede the Mariners’ opening day start.

After Felix’s minor league start on Tuesday, his first since taking a comebacker off his arm early in Cactus League play, he said he couldn’t imagine being told he wouldn’t get his 10th straight opening day start. There may have been a little bluster in that comment as Saturday night, after he threw 63 pitches in 3 2/3 innings (surrendering one run), he said that he knew it was “prove it” time.

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“Yes, yes it was,” he said. “I’m happy with my work. I am happy with my arm, so everything is fine.”

On the hill, Felix got off to a rocky start with the first pitch he threw hit out of the park by Cubs center fielder Ian Happ. That pitch, however, was not a concern.

“That was the wind,” he said. “The flight in Seattle, not even the warning track.”

Felix’s command was not particularly good the rest of the inning and the one that followed, though.

“I thought he was really amped up,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said, noting it was the first time in a long time Felix had pitched in an A game. “I thought his fastball had a lot of life, but when you get a little amped up sometimes the secondary pitches, the command wasn’t quite there. Health-wise, no issues there at all, just the consistency of getting the secondary pitches early.”

“Bad, bad, really bad,” Felix said of his command. “I have to work on that. I was too excited. Today was first time out there in a long time. Opening day, I can control myself.”

Words from his catcher, Mike Zunino, helped get him back on track. Felix was rushing to the plate and Zunino told him to dial it back and trust his stuff at 85 percent.

“That’s what Z wants,” Felix said. “When you are 85 you can get a lot of people out. If you have to go to 100 percent, then reach for it, that’s fine. But not now. That was good, that was really good.”

Getting Felix to dial it back and to trust his stuff at less than max effort, saving his bullets, is something that has been emphasized with him throughout the spring.  He doesn’t have to strike out the world. Early contact is preferred and it would appear he is buying in.

The true test will come in his first outing when the real adrenaline kicks in. Will that outing be in Game 1 or Game 2? Has he showed enough to get the ball opening day?

“I think?” Felix said. “I felt good. I threw 63 pitches. I think I can go to maybe 90.”

“The goal was to get him to 65 pitches, we will see how he feels tomorrow and go from there,” Servais said.

I would say the chances are very good Felix will be making his 10th straight opening day start.

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Felix Hernandez shows he’s healthy, awaits word on whether he’ll get Mariners’ opening day start