PHILADELPHIA — Mariners ace Felix Hernandez acted surprised Monday when asked whether his bruised right hip might prevent him from making his next scheduled start Friday at Boston.
“What?’ he barked. “I’m good!”
Hernandez suffered the injury in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Detroit when hit in the hip by Ian Kinsler’s sharp comebacker. Hernandez lasted one more inning before exiting, at least partially as a precaution.
Afterward, Hernandez admitted he was “pretty sore,” and he was still limping a day later. On Monday, he walked with no noticeable limp as he entered the clubhouse prior to the game.
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Last Saturday’s short outing against the Tigers ended Hernandez’s streak at 16 consecutive starts of pitching at least seven innings and allowing two or fewer runs.
Even so, Hernandez (13-4) still leads the American League with a 1.99 ERA. He ranks second, though Sunday, in innings and tied for second in strikeouts.
Efforts to limit the workload of rookie left-hander Roenis Elias didn’t ended when he returned Monday from a 10-day stay at Triple-A Tacoma.
Elias’ next start won’t be until next Monday, when the Mariners open a three-game series against Texas at Safeco Field.
An open date Thursday will permit Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts Tuesday against the Phillies, to start again Sunday at Boston on normal rest.
“I want Kuma against Boston,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “but we also have to watch Elias any time we can. An extra day makes sense. He’s going to uncharted territory.”
Elias, 26, entered Monday at 139 2/3 innings, including the five innings he worked last week in his only start at Tacoma. He pitched a combined 142 2/3 innings last year, counting winter ball in Venezuela.
The rotation now projects as Iwakuma and James Paxton for the final two games against the Phillies; and Hernandez, Chris Young and Iwakuma for the three weekend games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
That sets up Elias, Paxton and Hernandez next week against Texas.
THANKS FOR THE HELP
Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa said he received a Rolex watch from Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano. The gift was a thank-you from Cano for Bowa’s work as a coach while the two were in New York.
“That’s my boy,” Cano said. “He came over in 2006, and he was a guy who talked to me every day. The thing I liked is he’s honest. He tells the truth.
“He was the guy who told me that whenever you have a ground ball, always have in you mind that it’s going to be a bad hop. And also, whenever you go to second base, always expect a bad throw. That way, you’re always going to be ready.”
Cano was in his second big-league season when Bowa joined manager Joe Torre’s staff as third-base coach. Bowa spent just two years in the role, but Cano said those years were instrumental in his development as a player.
“He was a big mentor for me,” he said. “(Bowa) was a person who really helped me out…He was always there, and he always told you the truth. Those are the kind of persons you want to be around.”
Cano played for the Yankees from 2005-13 before signing a 10-year deal with the Mariners as a free agent.
OPTING FOR OFFENSE
The cozy dimensions of Citizens Bank Park prompted McClendon to opt for a bat (Logan Morrison) over the glove (Endy Chavez) in right field for Monday’s series opener.
“It’s tough because Chavy is playing well,” McClendon said. “It’s a small ballpark, and you want power in there. It may play.”
With the designated hitter unavailable for this series, Kendrys Morales shifted to first base.
POSSIBLE SCHEDULE ADJUSTMENT
Major League Baseball is looking into a scheduling adjustment regarding natural rivals for interleague play that would affect the Mariners in coming years.
The Mariners are currently linked with San Diego as natural rivals. A plan under consideration would put the Mariners, Texas and Houston in a rotation to play Arizona, Colorado and San Diego in a three-year cycle.
GOOD AND GETTING BETTER
The Mariners not only lead majors in ERA at 2.94, which puts them on pace to shatter their franchise record of 3.54 of 2001. They continue to get better as the season progresses.
After posting a 3.67 ERA from March 31 through April, they have posted a better mark in nearly each succeeding month.
The Mariners had a 3.56 ERA in May, a 2.53 ERA in June and a 2.57 ERA in July before tightening to a 1.89 ERA thus far through August.
Two Mariners farmhands were honored with weekly awards in their leagues for Aug. 11-17.
Lo-A Clinton outfielder Tyler O’Neill, 19, was picked as the Midwest League player of the week after batting.381 with two homers and eight RBIs in six games. He was a third-round pick in 2013.
Rookie Pulaski right-hander Rohn Pierce, 21, was picked as the Appalachian League pitcher of the week after going 2-0 in six scoreless innings in two relief appearances. He was a 19th-round pick in 2014.
It was 13 years ago Tuesday — Aug. 19, 2001 — that Mike Cameron had a career day in leading the Mariners to a 10-2 victory over the Yankees in New York.
Cameron went 4-for-4 with two homers, including a grand slam, and matched a franchise record by finishing with eight RBIs.
Alvin Davis set the record with eight RBIs on May 5, 1986 in a 13-3 victory over Toronto at the Kingdome. Mike Blowers matched the record on May 24, 1995 in a 15-6 victory over Boston at the Kingdome.
The Mariners and Phillies continue their three-game series at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6 with a 2.72 ERA) will oppose Philadelphia right-hander A.J. Burnett (6-13, 4.35). Root Sports will televise the game.
The series concludes at 10:05 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday. The Mariners have an open date Thursday before concluding their road trip with three weekend games at Boston.