A year ago, he came to camp a 22-year-old who'd never won more than 14 games in a season, reached the 200-inning level once in his first three full seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
"They let me go last year," Felix Hernandez said. "I did what I thought I could always do, pitch deep into games, throw a lot of innings."
After being cautiously brought along after his 2005 debut, the Mariners watched Hernandez do far more than win 19 games last season. With restraints lifted, he also pitched 238 2/3 innings.
Along the way, he set career highs in wins and innings, obviously, but also in strikeouts (217), starts (34), earned run average (2.49) - and became a first time All-Star.
"I didn't do much different this off-season , maybe worked my body a little more, worked on my strength," Hernandez said. "I wasn't any more tired at the end of 2009 than I was after 2008. I threw a lot of innings, but I wanted to throw them. That's my job."
Felix wasn't entirely unleashed. There were games when he was lifted after the seventh, eighth innings - by design. Manager Don Wakamatsu and pitching coach Rick Adair picked their spots, but they tried to save an inning or two of wear and tear.
"You look at a lot of factors," Adair said. "Every start is different. How many pitches did he throw last time out, were they easy pitches or was he working hard all game? Is there an off-day coming up? How rested is the bullpen? You don't set a number and try to hit it with innings, you look at each game as you go."
Asked about adding innings this season, Felix smiled.
"I want to do the same thing, get deep into every game, save the bullpen, give us the chance to win," he said.
Someone asked if he could envision himself pitching 300 innings - like a Nolan Ryan.
"He pitched every third day, I think," Felix said, laughing. "I don't see me doing that."
Today, Felix will throw his first bullpen session. What does an ace do on Day One?
"Fastballs and changeups, nice and easy, throw strikes," Hernandez said.