Felix Hernandez pronounced himself ready for his first Cactus League start, likely to be next Thursday, after all went well in a 39-pitch simulated game on Sunday morning.
Facing minor leaguers again in his second live stint, Hernandez threw smoothly, used all his pitches, and said he felt good.
“It was fine,’’ he said. “The changeup was good. The slider was there. I’m happy.”
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The above video shows Hernandez pitching to Martin Peguero, a 19-year-old infielder. Catcher Kelly Shoppach called balls and strikes, and with no fielders behind Hernandez, pitching coach Carl Willis determined whether balls in play were outs or hits. There was only one of the latter, a line drive to center by 19-year-old Gabriel Guerrero, nephew of Vlad Guerrero.
Shoppach drew laughs by immediately calling out, “Nice catch, Guti,’’ referring to center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. He elaborated on the imaginary scenario afterward.
“It was a low liner and he was coming straight in,’’ Shoppach said. “It was beautiful — he just laid out for it and was about this high off the ground. He slid in, popped up and threw a little side arm toss to the second baseman.”
Shoppach’s assessment of Hernandez’s outing: “He looked good, he let a few go. He got out on the mound and felt good; I think that’s all anyone cares about most importantly. It was pretty typical stuff for his first time getting in there in a sort of a live game situation. He’s just repeating what he’s trying to do. He was a little inconsistent with that. For me, it was a lot of fun. On the other side of it, it’s pretty good stuff.”
Just ask Joe DeCarlo, the 19-year-old infielder who was one of those brought over from the minor-league camp to face Hernandez. This is the first professional spring training for DeCarlo, drafted in the second round last June out of Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
“I mean, he’s the best,’’ DeCarlo said. “I was kind of in the batter’s box, looking for fastballs. He’s nasty. I mean, it speaks for itself.”
DeCarlo was happy to get the assignment, as daunting as it might have been.
“You don’t get to do that very often,’’ he said. “ I was excited. I was looking forward to it from the moment I heard I was coming in today. It was fun. I’m going to tell all my buddies back home. My family. I’ll remember it probably the rest of my career. First spring training.”
A couple of times, Hernandez asked for runners on base so he could work on that aspect of his game.
“I’ve been throwing too much from the wind up,’’ he said. “I wanted to do something from the stretch and see if the pitches were working the same. They worked pretty good.”
Hernandez was asked if his start on Thursday, in which he’s expected to go two innings, will bring added intensity.
“It was intensity right there,’’ he said. “Any time I jump on the mound there’s going to be intensity.”