PEORIA, Ariz. — While Felix Hernandez pitches Sunday against a collection of minor leaguers on a back field, lefty Roenis Elias will start against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Peoria Stadium.
Elias is in need of a bounce-back outing in his competition with Taijuan Walker for the rotation’s final spot. Elias gave up two runs on four hits and a walk Monday against Colorado in a piggyback start behind Hernandez.
“He was a little erratic with his command,” McClendon said. “He was probably a little hyped up. He’s better than that. He pitched behind in the count quite a bit. He’ll have to get better. I’m sure he will.”
Walker has five scoreless innings in his two starts while allowing just two hits, walking none and striking out six. His next outing is Saturday against Arizona at Salt River Fields.
Lefty James Paxton had “a great live BP,” according to pitching coach Rick Waits, during a morning workout against minor-league players.
Paxton is recovering from a sore forearm, which he suffered when he braced himself on a fall in a pre-camp agility drills.
“He’ll have one more of these,” Waits said, “and be ready for (his spring debut) on the 17th. I think he’s right on target.”
Paxton said he felt no discomfort in his forearm — “nothing’ — either in his 30 warm-up pitches or his 30-pitch session to hitters. He also used the workout to hone a new two-seam changeup.
“I’m looking at getting a little more movement,” he said, “so I can use it as a swing-and-miss pitch as well as late contact. Last year, I felt it was a little bit straight and a little bit hard. This one might be a little bit slower also.”
RUGGIANO ON THE MOVE
Newcomer Justin Ruggiano increasingly projects as the sole moving part in the Mariners’ projected five-man outfield.
“I’m still learning their strengths,” McClendon said, “but I don’t think you’ll see (center fielder) Austin Jackson in right field.
“There’s a chance Ruggiano will play some left field and, for that matter, he’ll play some center field.”
Ruggiano’s primary role projects as the right-handed part of a right-field platoon with Seth Smith.
“I don’t see Smith playing anything but right field,” McClendon said. “(Dustin) Ackley will play left field. (Rickie) Weeks will play left field. But Ruge is a talented kid who can play all three.
“He may move around, and it wouldn’t upset him.”