TUCSON, Ariz. – Felix Hernandez called it “OK.” Manager Don Wakamatsu didn’t disagree with his starter’s assessment.
But trying to grade or analyze Hernandez’s Cactus League start Sunday against Colorado seems kind of pointless because it was his first start of spring training.
Analyzing Hernandez’s performance and trying to extrapolate it toward how he will pitch in the regular season is foolish and a waste of time.
Hernandez took the mound, had no trouble getting to his pitch count, showed good velocity and movement on his pitches, and didn’t get hurt.
By Wakamatsu’s measure, that’s a success.
“It’s his first outing of the year against competition,” Wakamatsu said. “I know he was a little bit pumped up. I liked the fact that we could get him out there (to) throw 53 pitches. Bottom line is this was supposed to see where he was at strength-wise and he looked strong.”
Hernandez threw 22/3 innings, allowing four hits, walking two hitters and striking out three. Of his 53 pitches, 32 were strikes. In the third inning, his fastball was gauged at around 93 mph.
Some of the pitches looked like midseason Hernandez, while others lacked the crispness that comes from not having pitched in a real game this spring.
“I saw some great pitches mixed in there,” Wakamatsu said. “I thought his ball moved well. He’s a feel guy, and he needs to get out there and pitch a little bit.”
Hernandez always wants to pitch more than a little bit. He was in midseason form when it came to showing his disappointment and lobbying for more mound time when Wakamatsu came to pull him in the third inning.
“No, no, no,” said Hernandez, when asked if he wanted to come out. “I told Wak, ‘Come on, Wak, again?’ I told him just give me one more batter. He said, ‘Get out of here.’ ”
Hernandez said everything felt good on the mound, but he didn’t enjoy giving up four hits, including Troy Tulowitzki’s single through the box that knocked him to the ground trying to get out of the way.
“It wasn’t hit too hard,” he said. “It was right at me. It kind of froze me. I didn’t catch the ball. I should have.”
When asked to rate his performance, Hernandez didn’t give himself a letter grade, choosing the King Felix scale instead.
“I feel I was kind of OK for me,” Hernandez said. “I was not happy with my performance. I gave up four hits and I didn’t like that. But I feel pretty good and that’s all I was looking for.”
That wasn’t all he was looking for. Hernandez, who wanted a hit, struck out on three pitches by Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
“He throws hard,” Hernandez said. “Wak told me to take one strike. I said, ‘Come on, Wak, it’s going to be right down the middle.’ ”
It was. Hernandez then fouled off a pitch and flailed at a high, hard fastball for strike three.
But the day was about Hernandez’s start. It was much-anticipated for last year’s Cy Young runner-up after Wakamatsu decided to scale back Hernandez’s workload this spring.
“I always like to have more innings,” Hernandez said about the lighter work load. “But it’s a good thing. I’ll be fresh for the season and ready to go.”
Depending on how the Mariners handle an off day Tuesday, Hernandez would throw either Friday against the Reds in Goodyear or Saturday in Peoria against the Diamondbacks. That Saturday game will be televised live on FSN.