OAKLAND, Calif. — Felix Hernandez finally presented former Mariners catcher John Jaso with the perfect gift: a shiny Rolex for catching King Felix’s perfecto last August against the Rays.
A clubhouse employee delivered the gold watch from Seattle’s side to the Oakland clubhouse for Jaso about 90 minutes before first pitch of the Mariners’ 2-0 season-opening win against the Athletics on Monday night.
“Getting to be a part of it is way bigger than this, but this is definitely a really nice gesture,” Jaso said. “He really didn’t have to. I was really just happy with being behind the plate. He came through.”
Hernandez, who made his first start since signing a $175 million, seven-year contract in February against the reigning AL West champions, said Sunday during a workout day at the Coliseum that he had a special present for his old backstop.
“He was pretty excited,” Hernandez said after the game. “He’s a great guy. I had to do something for him.”
Hernandez — in his sixth career opening day start and fifth in a row — retired the first 10 batters of the game before Jaso doubled to center with one out in the fourth for the first hit.
“He broke up the no-hitter,” Hernandez said. “I was going to say, ‘Dude, what time is it?’”
Jaso popped up to shortstop on the second pitch he saw in the first. Perhaps that watch was still weighing on his mind.
“It is pretty heavy. It’s got to be real,” Jaso said. “The watch I own, I think it’s a Timex, so this is a bit of an upgrade. I think there’s a bit of tradition with the Rolex. I knew he was going to come through.”
Engraved on the back of the watch are the words “perfect game” and the date — “8/15/12.” For the 29-year-old Jaso, in his first season with Oakland after an offseason trade, catching the game and being a part of history meant so much in his third season as a major league regular.
Grinning, he modeled the snazzy, stylish new wristwear on his left arm. Jaso planned to thank Hernandez soon enough — though Hernandez said they didn’t get a chance to chat afterward.
Earlier in the day, Jaso said he hadn’t spoken to the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner and didn’t know if he truly had something for him.
“I don’t know if he really has one — a fastball in the back?” Jaso said, then later added, “I would definitely take this over that.”