The fanfare may arrive Friday evening at Cheney Stadium — in the form of a sold-out crowd donning red T-shirts and hoisting K cards — but Cody Martin was no slouch on the hill Thursday.
Highlighted by nine strikeouts — which ties his own season high as well as the club’s — Martin threw six solid innings as the Rainiers opened the second half of the season with a 3-1 win over Colorado Springs.
“Outs matter here just as much as in the big leagues, because we all want to get back there or get there for the first time,” said Martin, who has two MLB appearances this season.
He punched out seven batters in the first three innings to improve to 8-5 (3.63 ERA).
Ryan Strausborger and Guillermo Heredia each homered in the fourth to give Tacoma its two-run advantage, while Martin and three relievers held the Sky Sox scoreless in the final five innings as the Rainiers improved to 50-40.
Martin is one of seven Rainiers players who have shared time on Seattle’s roster with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who will make his second rehab start Friday at Cheney. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list (calf) on May 30.
Hernandez last pitched in Tacoma on July 30, 2005, when he tossed four hitless innings and struck out seven against Omaha. He made his MLB debut less than a month later.
“His stuff’s not what it used to be, but he still gets people out, which is impressive,” Martin said. “He knows how to pitch, and it’s not just throwing 98. He’s throwing off-speed for strikes and throwing behind in counts.
“That’s what we want to watch, and we want to learn from what he’s doing because he’s getting guys out at a very high clip.”
Mike Zunino will be behind the plate when the King takes the mound.
“I’m excited to get back there and catch him again,” Zunino said. “We’ve had a lot of starts and innings together. ... He’s so good and he wants to always be better. He’s one of the best in the game and that’s why.”
Hernandez pitched to a sold-out crowd in Short-A Everett on Sunday, and is anticipated to make his next start back with Seattle if all goes to plan in Tacoma.
Rainiers manager Pat Listach said Hernandez is projected to pitch about five innings and 70 pitches. The priority is to get his pitch count up and keep him healthy, Listach added.
“A franchise star is here trying to get right,” Listach said.
During his career, Hernandez is 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA with Tacoma. He pitched 88 innings and struck out 100 batters before he was promoted to the majors. ... Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush, on rehab assignment (shoulder), pitched two-thirds of an inning in his first outing with Tacoma on Thursday. He threw seven pitches — all strikes — before he took a sharp line drive from Kyle Wren off his back. Listach said Furbush’s availability will not be affected.
Hernandez, a right-hander, will make his first start for the Rainiers in more than a decade Friday — he was 19 years old when he last pitched in Tacoma. He’ll be opposed by Colorado Springs right-hander Wily Peralta (0-2, 9.17 ERA). The game starts at 7:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on 850-AM.