Felix Hernandez makes push for Opening Day start in final spring outing

posted by Curtis Crabtree -

Felix Hernandez vs. Cubs OF Ian Rapp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez made his final start of spring training on Saturday and bolstered his chances of making an Opening Day start against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

"A lot of pitches. It was good," Hernandez said. "A lot of work. I think I handled all of my pitches. I feel pretty good so no problem at all.

"I'm happy with my work and happy with my arm so everything is fine."

Hernandez threw 63 pitches over 3 2/3 innings of work against the Chicago Cubs. He allowed a run on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. 

Manager Scott Servais said they will wait to see how Hernandez feels Sunday morning before deciding their plan of action for Opening Day.

"The goal was to get him to 65 pitches. We'll see how he feels tomorrow and then see where we go from there," he said.

The only run of Hernandez's outing came on the very first pitch as center fielder Ian Happ hit a fly ball to left field that carried over the left field wall.

"That was the wind. The flight in Seattle is like not even the warning track," he said.

Hernandez's fastball sat between 90-92 miles per hour throughout the night.

"I thought his fastball had really good life but when you get a little amped up the secondary pitches and the command of those weren't quite there," Servais said. "He's healthy. I thought he settled in better in the third inning."

Hernandez agreed that the command of the breaking pitches was less than ideal but attributed it to be a bit too exciting about returning to the mound.

"Ah, bad. Really bad," Hernandez said of his command. "That's the one thing. I think I was too excited.

"It's because today was like, you know, my first time out there in a long time."

Hernandez had not pitched in a full spring training game since late February when he took a line drive off his right arm in his first start of camp. He threw three innings in a minor league game on Monday but Saturday night's outing was the last chance to see a mound before the season begins next week.

Chris Gimenez drew a leadoff walk off Hernandez in the second inning and Ryan Court followed with a single to put a pair of runners on. But Hernandez would get a double play ball from Mark Zaguris and coax a fly ball to center field from Jacob Hannemann to end the inning.

He struck out a pair in the third inning and allowed a line double to Mike Freeman in the fourth inning before exiting after a ground out to second from Gimenez.

Hernandez is on schedule to start against the Indians and said the opportunity to make the Opening Day appearance is still important to him.

"It means a lot," he said. "For any pitcher it means a lot. Opening Day. Another season. A lot of eyes on you."

If Hernandez does make the start, it will be the 10th time he's gotten the ball on Opening Day during his Mariners career.

Notes:

-- The Mariners sent Rule 5 draft pick back to the New York Yankees on Saturday as he was not going to make the club out of spring training. Ford his .259 with two home runs in 24 games for Seattle this spring. A Rule 5 draft pick must remain on a team's major league roster for an entire season or he reverts back to the control of his previous club.

Additionally, right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. The pair of roster moves trims Seattle's roster to 34 players, 28 roster players and six non-roster invitees. They will need to get to 25 players for Opening Day.

-- The Mariners have reportedly agreed to sign left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc to a major league deal, cementing a place on Seattle's roster less than a week before the start of the season.

LeBlanc pitched for the Mariners in 2016 as a starter following a trade to acquire him from the Toronto Blue Jays. He posted a 3-0 record with a 4.50 ERA in 11 total appearances and eight starts for Seattle that helped the team stay in postseason contention.

LeBlanc was released by the New York Yankees on Friday with the Mariners quickly moving in to add him to their pitching staff, which saw David Phelps lost for the season to a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament a week ago.

LeBlanc made 50 appearances in relief for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He went 5-2 record with a 4.50 ERA.

-- Jean Segura went 3-for-3 with a walk in four plate appearances after missing the last few games due to a sprained thumb.

-- Ariel Miranda pitched three innings of relief without allowing a hit. He walked just one and struck out four.

Photo Credit: Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez tosses a pitch to Cubs outfielder Ian Happ in a Cactus League game in Peoria, Ariz. on March. 24, 2018. Happ hit the pitch to left field for a solo home run. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR).

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