By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. — Unshackled but not yet untethered as the Seattle Mariners ease him into the season, Felix Hernandez pitched his first spring training game Sunday, allowing four hits in 22/3 innings of the Mariners’ 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Hernandez also issued two walks and was pulled with two outs in the third inning, having thrown 53 pitches, 32 for strikes. Manager Don Wakamatsu had wanted to limit Hernandez to about 50 pitches.
“The bottom line is that it was nice to see where he was at strength-wise,” Wakamatsu said. “And he looked strong .”
The Mariners want to limit Hernandez to about 20 innings before the regular season begins, hoping the lighter workload allows him to come back strong after he pitched a career-high 2382/3 innings last year.
“Last year at this time I had thrown something like 15 innings,” Hernandez said. “I threw in the WBC and one game in spring training. I prefer more innings but understand what they are doing. It’s a good thing — be fresh for the regular season.”
Hernandez had pitched two simulated games against minor league hitters this month, but Sunday was the first time he’d faced major league hitters since the final game of the 2009 season last Oct. 4.
“I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes, throw all my pitches and get a feeling for pitching again,” Hernandez said. “I felt pretty good. I wanted one more batter.”
Saturday, outfielder Eric Byrnes belly-flopped into second base in Peoria and scraped up his nose, chin and elbows. Sunday, catcher Adam Moore did the same when he grinded himself to a face-first stop when he ran from first to third on Chris Woodward’s double in the seventh inning.
Moore suffered a gash on his chin that required stitches. How many?
“Three or four. Too painful to count,” he said. “We are having sliding practice tomorrow and me and Byrnsie are going to teach it.”
Wakamatsu was perplexed that it happened two days in a row.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from. I really don’t,” he said. “We played that Byrnes video (in the bus) on the way down. Maybe that’s the wrong thing to do.”
Moore caught the game Sunday because the Mariners wanted him to handle Hernandez. Rob Johnson, who became Hernandez’s personal catcher last season, will make his first start today when he catches Cliff Lee against the Diamondbacks. Johnson has been held back because of surgery to both hips in the offseason, although the Mariners believe he’ll be ready to start the season.
“If Rob isn’t ready, I feel good about going out there and catching him,” Moore said. “Today is the first time I have caught him in a game situation. We got on the same page and went from there.”
Today in camp
The Mariners end their two-day trip to Tucson with a 1:05 p.m. (PDT) game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lee will make his second exhibition start for the Mariners, who also are expected to pitch left-hander Luke French and right-handers Shawn Kelley, Chad Cordero, Anthony Varvaro, Ricky Orta and Levale Speigner. Left-hander Clay Zavada will start for Arizona. The game will not be carried on radio.
Johnson will catch his first game today against the Diamondbacks in Tucson and figures he’ll play four or five innings. Considering what he’s gone through this offseason, with surgery on both hips, Johnson was asked if Sunday would be a sleepless night. “When you’ve got an 18-month old, there are a lot of sleepless nights,” he said. Johnson got some at-bats Sunday in a minor league simulated game. … Utility infielder Jack Hannahan said he may hit off a tee today, his first baseball-related activity of any kind since he was shut down because of a mild strain of his right groin. If the early estimate holds that he’ll miss 7-10 days, Hannahan figures he’ll be able to play in games the final 11/2 to two weeks of the exhibition season. … Left-hander Jason Vargas, a fifth starter candidate who had pitched well in his first two exhibition games, gave up three hits, a walk and an unearned run in three innings against the Rockies. “I thought he was up in the zone. Nothing was real crisp today,” Wakamatsu said. Vargas hasn’t allowed an earned run in 82/3 innings. … Brandon League and Kanekoa Texeira each pitched one inning, although the Mariners had hoped to get them more work. “We’re trying to stretch them out (but) didn’t have the opportunity to do that,” Wakamatsu said. “Chalk it up to getting our work in.” … Matt Tuiasosopo continued his strong bid to win a bench job, started at third base and went 2-for-4, raising his exhibition average to .458. “Both offensively and defensively he continues to play well,” Wakamatsu said. … Relievers Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will pitch a simulated game today in Peoria. Danny Cortes also will pitch in that game. … The Mariners say only a handful of scattered single seats remain available for the April 12 home opener after single-game ticket sales began Saturday.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com/marinersblog