Tacoma, a Seattle superstar will be in town Tuesday.
And if it were up to Pat Listach – and just about every other person in Tacoma – Felix Hernandez’s upcoming Rainiers tour might go down a little different.
“I’d like to use him for about seven innings,” the Rainiers manager joked.
He won’t be allowed to use The King for more than four, though, Listach said, as Hernandez makes a rehab start on his way back from bursitis in his shoulder.
Listach said Hernandez will have his full arsenal at his disposal, though the Cy Young winner and six-time MLB All-Star will get a maximum of 65 pitches.
“No more than that,” Listach said. “But he’s here to compete. He can’t just go up here and treat it like it’s a spring training game. But if you know the competitor he is, he’s not going to take it light because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed, either.”
Listach said he also expects outfielder Mitch Haniger to make a Rainiers appearance sometime this week in his recovery from a strained right oblique, but said he had not been told when – though that could be Tuesday, too. The 26-year-old was batting .342 in 21 games before the injury.
Just how long Hernandez’s Tacoma stay lasts depends on his performance Tuesday against the Reno Aces.
“If things go well, we’ll see where he stands and might send him straight to Seattle,” Listach said. “But I think there’s a chance that if he doesn’t throw well and doesn’t feel great he could be here a little longer.”
And there’s an additional benefit to Hernandez’s presence.
“The guys get to eat real well after the game, I know that,” Listach laughed. “Felix makes sure of that.
“But you come in and see a guy like that, a perennial All-Star trying got get back healthy, these guys all feed off it. The energy at the ball park should be great.”
It will be the second time in two years Hernandez will have pitched in Tacoma, the place where he made his Triple-A debut on his 19th birthday more than 12 years ago.
He pitched into the sixth inning in his Rainiers’ appearance last year, allowing one hit (a home run) in a 4-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Cheney Stadium. He was rehabbing a strained right calf muscle.
Hernandez’s last start came April 25 when he left after two innings in a 19-9 loss against the Detroit Tigers. He allowed six hits and four runs, which upped his ERA to 4.73 in five starts (2-2).
This is the fourth time in the 31-year-old’s 13-year career he’s been on the disabled list. He had previously been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball, throwing at least 200 innings for eight consecutive seasons and at least 190 for 10 straight seasons until that ended last year.
“We’ve been talking and he’s been like, he feels weird a little bit,” said Rainiers centerfielder Leonys Martin, whom the Mariners designated for assignment two days before Hernandez’s injury. “The last couple of years he’s been on the DL and that hadn’t happened before in many years. But he’s getting better and he’s going to be all right.”
In the meantime, Tacoma will enjoy the Venezuelan superstar with the golden arm for at least a day.
“I’m so happy to see my boy,” Martin said. “We are so close and I am so happy for him to see him getting back. We need Felix. Seattle needs Felix. He’s going to get right and I can’t wait to see him back.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677