Felix Hernandez has been asked if he’s all right so many times this spring that when a reporter approached him in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse today, he didn’t even wait for a question.
“I’m fine,” he said.
The ace of the staff, the projected opening day starter and the man who worked 239 innings last season, the 23-year-old Hernandez was initially scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday. But didn’t.
“He played long toss, instead,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He’ll throw a bullpen on Tuesday. Everything is going well.”
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Given two pitchers, Hernandez and Cliff Lee, capable of winning 20 games apiece, the Mariners are bringing those two staff anchors along slowly. So slowly, in fact, that the media has noticed and wondered if both men are completely healthy.
They are, Wakamatsu insists. There is a plan in place, and the Mariners are following it.
“The first bullpen Felix threw this spring, it looked like he was throwing 100 miles an hour,” Wakamatsu said, “and that’s exactly what we didn’t want. We’re trying to limit the innings Felix and Cliff throw this spring, and the intensity with which they throw early on.
“They’re both competitive guys. You put Felix on the mound, he’s going to go hard. So we’re not putting him on the mound as much right now.”
Like a couple of thoroughbreds who see other horses running, Henandez and Lee are ready to join in.
“I’m fine physically, but I throw when they tell me to throw,” Lee said. “They’ve got a plan and I’m good with it. I’ve played catch, I’ve played long toss. My arm feels great.”
Which is precisely how the Mariners want it to feel. For now, the halters stay on.