PEORIA, Ariz. — That Mariners ace Felix Hernandez hasn’t yet stepped to the mound for a bullpen workout in spring training isn’t new or particularly surprising.
“Felix can do whatever the (heck) he wants to do,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He has his own beat. He usually doesn’t throw early. I have no concerns because he’s in great shape. I’m really impressed.”
Hernandez took part Monday in PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice) and led his group through such drills as the pitcher-to-first and pitcher-to-third bunt plays.
But he generally spends the first few days just playing catch.
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As pitching coach Rick Waits noted prior to Saturday’s first official workout, “All of a sudden, it’s `I’m ready.’ Last year, it was the fifth or sixth day that he got on the mound.”
Most pitchers throw bullpen workouts every other day early in camp. Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias headed a group Monday who threw their second session.
Once Hernandez feels “ready,” he’ll get together with Waits to map out a spring schedule to target him toward the season opener April 6 against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
“If you look at him,” McClendon said, “he’s in tremendous shape. I was just shocked at how slim he looks. He’s really worked extremely hard this winter.”
It’s hard to argue with Hernandez’s approach. This year projects as his eighth start in a season opener. He is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his previous seven.
Lefty James Paxton has also yet to throw a bullpen workout — but for a different reason: He’s nursing a sore forearm after stumbling last week in an agility drill through a series of hoops.
“I was doing so agilities,” he said, “and I just bit it. I caught my foot on the turf, and I fell forward on my hands. I feel fine now, but they’re just being careful. They don’t want to push me too hard or anything.”
Paxton said he threw afterwards and experienced some soreness, which prompted the Mariners to shut him down and order up an X-ray and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam.
“Everything looks good,” he said. “We’re just kind of waiting for that bruising to clean up…It’s like punching a punching bag, and you get sore wrists. It’s kind of that same feeling.”
Club officials are taking a cautious approach.
“He says he feels good,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “but we’re not going to have him throw until it’s completely quieted down. It doesn’t make any sense (for him to throw) this early.”
Zduriencik estimated it would be “at least a few days” before Paxton is able to resume full workouts.
Paxton missed four months last season because a strained back muscle.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. “You bust it (in off-season workouts), getting ready for this, and something like this happens. It’s frustrating.
“It’s something I’ve done a thousand times. It’s just one of those crazy things. I can’t explain it. An un-athletic moment for me. I’ve done (the drill) since then, and I’m totally fine.”
The website also said Sanchez, 20, remains in an induced coma in a Caracas hospital from injuries suffered Feb. 13 when struck in the head by a boat’s propeller while swimming at Carupano on the country’s central coast.
The Mariners signed Sanchez as a 16-year-old in 2011 for $2.5 million. He was 7-6 with a 4.19 ERA last season at Double-A Jackson before making seven starts for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League.