One pitcher the Mariners aren’t too worried about heading into the regular season is staff ace Felix Hernandez. He hit the first batter he faced today with a backdoor sinker that he admitted didn’t sink enough. But then, nine batters in a row were set down.
After the game, I asked manager Eric Wedge on the field whether he was aware of any hamstring problems with Hernandez. Wedge seemed genuinely unaware, so it’s probably safe to say the ice wrap around Hernandez’s left upper leg for his hamstring was just routine maintenance of muscles that can sometimes come up sore for pitchers.
Until we hear otherwise, then, this was a good news day for Hernandez, who told Jim Bowden on his Sirius radio show — broadcast out of Peoria this afternoon — that he plans to stay with the Mariners for the duration of his career. Hernandez has been making the rounds telling people this at various media outlets.
And while Hernandez is not the GM and doesn’t get final say in whether he remains a Mariner or not, his willigness to extend his current deal past its expiry in 2014 would obviously play a factor in attempts to keep him. So, we’ll see.
Hernandez says he’s on track to start the regular season. He doesn’t sense any difference now compared with any other spring, despite having less time to prepare for the season opener because of the early start in Japan.
“I don’t think there’s a difference at all,” he said. “I’m just trying to be ready. It’s a normal spring training.”
Hernandez said this outing didn’t feel much different than when he threw against minor leaguers last Thursday.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes, finding the strike zone and it was good,” he said. “It was a good day.”
Hernandez came in to the clubhouse this morning and was informed by Carlos Guillen — his countryman from Venezuela — that he’d be retiring. Hernandez tried to talk him out of it, feeling that Guillen can still hit even if he’s having trouble getting his body out and on to the field.
“I was like ‘Why are you going to do that?’ ” he said.
The two first met right after the Mariners signed Hernandez as a 16-year-old in Venezuela.
“They took me to Safeco Field and the first guy I met was Carlos,” he said. “We’ve had a good relationship ever since.”
Hernandez said he remembered Guillen telling him to stay positive, work hard and that he’d make it to the big leagues someday.
“He’s a great guy.”
On the hitting side, Ichiro went 3-for-3 today, though one of his singles was on a fly ball lost in the sun. Still, he’s coming along and did collect a pair of RBI. That’s something the Mariners need from a No. 3 hitter.
“He’s still working into it, but he’s a hitter,” Wedge said. “He knows the game. Like I’ve said to you before, I want him to define that three-hole spot. And he will and he is and the more he’s there, the more he’ll get accustomed to it.”
Adam Moore continues to hit the ball well, going 2-for-2 today with a double and two RBI.
On the downside, Hong-Chih Kuo got tagged for a single, a walk and a three-run homer in a 29-pitch fifth inning. He also struck out a batter. Only one outing, but Kuo has to show he’s got his command straightened out before he’ll be given the key bullpen role the team envisioned when he was signed.