Hernandez vs. Darvish: M’s-Rangers features marquee pitching matchup

ARLINGTON, Texas — Listen to the principals involved, Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish, and their marquee pitching match-up tonight isn’t anything special.

“Is that a big deal?” asked Hernandez, the Mariners’ long-time ace. “I’ve just got to do my job. That’s all I’ve got to do. I’ve just got to go out there and, if he throws good, I’ve got to throw good, too.”

Texas’ Darvish tried another tack when asked about facing Hernandez.

“I like to be careful with his changeup and his two-seam (fastball),” Darvish deadpanned, “but I’d like to hit his two-seam out of the park. All jokes aside, I’m not too worried about the other pitcher.

“I just have to pitch my game.”

Darvish opened the season on the disabled list because of a stiff neck but returned with a flourish: 15 scoreless innings over two starts against Tampa Bay and Houston.

The last pitcher to open a season with successive scoreless starts of seven innings or more? Hernandez in 2007.

Darvish (1-0), suffered a small cut on his thumb in his start last Friday against the Astros, apparently from the friction of throwing his curve, but he minimized concern in preparation for facing the Mariners.

“Even when I was throwing,” he said, “it didn’t hurt me. I’ve done this so many times, and it didn’t hurt me at all.”

This is the third head-to-head meeting between Hernandez and Darvish, but the other two occurred in 2012 at Safeco Field. Hernandez was an easy winner both times: 6-1 on May 21, and 7-0 on July 14.

Hernandez enters today’s game at 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA and leading the majors with 30 strikeouts. And while he fully expects his competitive fire to be fully stoked — it’s not because he’s facing Darvish.

The Rangers have handled Hernandez better than any opponent throughout his 10-year career. They beat him five times last season and own a 20-12 record against him. (That amounts to 23.8 percent of his career losses.)

“Just going up against Texas will pump me up a little bit,” confirmed Hernandez, whose last victory over the Rangers was that July 14, 2012 game against Darvish.

“They’ve got me a couple of times. I’ve just got to make pitches and do my job.”

Iwakuma update

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is ready for the next step — facing hitters — after breezing through a 51-pitch bullpen workout with no apparent problems prior to Tuesday’s game.

It was Iwakuma’s third mound workout in his ongoing recovery from a strained ligament in his middle finger, which effectively sidelined him for all of spring training.

Plans now call for Iwakuma to throw 45 pitches, or three innings, in a simulated game Friday in Miami. If all goes well, he should then be ready to start a minor-league rehab assignment next week.

Honoring Robinson

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is old enough, at 55, to have known many players who benefited immediately from the opportunities created when Jackie Robinson successfully breached baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

It’s not surprising, because of that link, that he turns quietly humble when commenting on the sport’s annual recognition of Robinson’s achievement, held Tuesday, that includes having all uniformed personnel wear No. 42.

“Obviously, Jackie is the reason I’m sitting here (as a manager),” McClendon said. “Lot of other folks are sitting in the position they’re sitting in (because of Robinson). I’ll wear it with pride. Very significant.

“I think probably lost in all this, is the struggles that he really went through. I had the opportunity to read his autobiography, then watched the film, which brought some more to light.

“What a tremendous human being to withstand the things that he went through. I thought what was really important about that was he was tough enough not to fight back. That meant a lot.

“I’ll be proud to wear that uniform.”

Luetge to Tacoma

As expected, the Mariners optioned lefty reliever Lucas Luetge to Class AAA Tacoma to clear roster space for Blake Beavan prior to Tuesday’s game. Beaven then started against the Rangers.

Luetge, 27, made two appearances following his April 9 recall. He allowed two runs on a walk and a homer in one inning.

The Mariners also list Beavan as the projected starter for Sunday’s game in Miami.

Short hops

Outfielder Logan Morrison said he’s feeling “better” after exiting Monday game in the first inning because of tightness in his right hamstring. McClendon said Morrison was available Tuesday “in an emergency.” … Hernandez will travel back to Seattle on Saturday from Miami in preparation for his scheduled start Monday at home against Houston. That avoids the long plane ride the day prior to his start. … The Mariners turned four grounders into double plays in Monday’s victory. The last time they did that was July 7, 2012 at Oakland.

Minor details

Right-hander Taijuan Walker heads the list of the Mariners’ top 20 prospects as just released by John Sickels, one of the industry’s premier prospect analysts.

Walker’s ranking is no surprise, and the rest of Sickels’ list generally mirrors the other major rankings. Still, it’s worth a look for the capsule summaries at http://bit.ly/1nooIoa.

The rest of Sickels’ top five: left-hander James Paxton, third baseman D.J. Peterson, right-hander Victor Sanchez and right-hander Edwin Diaz.

Looking back

It was 14 years ago Wednesday — April 16, 2000 — that the Mariners set a franchise record by amassing 44 total bases in a 19-7 victory at Toronto.

Alex Rodriguez hit three home runs and led the way with 13. The other contributors: Jay Buhner 7, John Olerud 6, Stan Javier 6, Mike Cameron 4, John Mabry 3, Dan Wilson 2, Edgar Martinez 2 and Mark McLemore 1.

Much of the damage came against Chris Carpenter (eight runs in 3 1/3 innings), a three-time All-Star who would win the 2005 National League Cy Young Award while pitching for St. Louis.

On tap

The Mariners and Rangers offer up a marquee match-up today for the third game in the four-game series at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-0 with a 2.11 ERA) will face Texas ace Yu Darvish (1-0 and 0.00) at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time. Root Sports will telecast the game.

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