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March 5, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Cliff Lee ready for games, Felix Hernandez still being held off

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Just got back from the big games of the day, those being the simulated ones thrown this morning by Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. Lee faced live hitters for two innings and while he tailed off in the end, he’s still seen as ready for game action.
The hitters were told not to swing on Hernandez, only to track balls. That way, he could get comfortable throwing and go full-throttle without holding back.
“That’s what I was looking for, just to feel good,” Hernandez said, adding that he threw all of his pitches.”
The team is easing him along slowly since he’s thrown fewer pitches than Lee in bullpen sessions. In fact, while the team had previously said Hernandez would throw about 28 innings this spring, that’s now been scaled all the way down to 20.
Naturally, that would appear to be something that should set off an alarm bell or two. After all, Lee is the guy coming off foot surgery and Hernandez is now being eased in there even slower than the lefty.
So, I asked manager Don Wakamatsu about it.

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His answer? That he had miscalculated on the number of innings thrown by Hernandez at the World Baseball Classic last season, a number that was actually lower than he’d first thought.
“I thought that he threw more in the WBC, but when we went back and looked at it, he didn’t have as many as we thought,” Wakamatsu said. “He had 14 in spring (training).”
Hernandez threw 8 2/3 innings at the WBC for Venezuela, then threw the 14 additional frames in Cactus League action Wakamatsu refered to, giving him 22 2/3 innings for the entire spring. In the end, the team felt he had a heavy workload last year.
So, the innings he’ll now be throwing this spring has been downgraded to reflect that.
The team is obviously being extra cautious in regards to Hernandez, who threw 238 2/3 innings last season. We’ve all heard of the studies that warn that too big an innings jump for young pitchers can be detrimental to their arms.
The Mariners are clearly aware of this and doing all they can to limit his workload this spring. They insist Hernandez isn’t hurt. And to be honest, seeing is believing. Hernandez threw 19 pitches this morning and his stuff looked in top form — better than Lee’s package of 33 pitches, to be honest. Please note, however, that it’s different when hitters aren’t swinging at your stuff.
Lee allowed two singles, two walks and one official hit by pitch (he grazed another hitter, who did not take his base) to a group of low level minor leaguers.
“I wasn’t locating the way I wanted to,” Lee said. “But first time facing live hitters, it’s not a big deal. My body feels all right, that’s the main thing for me right now.”
Hernandez will get one more simulated game in a couple of days and then, if all goes well, be pencilled in for a real game.
The word on David Aardsma is that he’s OK. We told you yesterday that the team suspected this was not a serious problem and is only being extra cautious. Expect him to miss an outing and then get back in there.



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