PEORIA, Ariz. — Another spring in the books for Felix Hernandez. Make what you want of the numbers. The King, for his part, deems them irrelevant.
"Not here in Arizona," he said. "Just throw the pitches you need to throw and get it done. I’m just looking to be healthy, and I am healthy, and to get ready for April 4. Oh, yeah, I’m ready."
OK, that’s couple of sound bites pushed together. Still the message is clear.
Hernandez endured a four-run first inning Wednesday in a 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium. It included some ragged defense, but Hernandez said the fault was his: "Everything was up."
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It only seemed to annoy him. He retired the last two hitters in the first inning on grounders. Pitched around a two-out single in a strong second. Then asked to pitch the third, and he retired three in a row.
Derek Norris’ two-run double highlighted the four-run first before Hernandez closed out his spring with a line showing four runs (three earned) and four hits in three innings. He threw 60 pitches.
For the spring, he allowed eight runs and 18 hits in 15 1/3 innings.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Better than last year, probably."
A year ago, Hernandez allowed 14 runs in 12 1/3 innings. Then he opened the season by limiting the Angels to one run over seven innings in a 4-1 victory. He is 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA in eight career starts on opening day.
"It’s different," he said. "You’ve got more adrenaline, more concentration. It’s just different."
The Mariners trailed 7-2 before scoring once in the eighth and twice in the ninth.
PLAY OF THE GAME: A drive by Matt Kemp sailed over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz to start the fifth inning. Cruz played the carom and made a strong throw to second that easily beat Kemp.
PLUS: Lefty Mike Montgomery, aided by Cruz’s assist, pitched a one-two-three fifth inning. He also had a clean inning in Monday night’s loss to Cleveland…right-hander Tony Zych pitched out of a first-and-third jam with no outs in the sixth by sandwiching two strikeouts around a soft liner to second. That was the good (see below)…
MINUS: Robinson Cano, after a day off, cooled down from his scorching weekend. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts after going 6-for-7 on Saturday and Sunday with four homers…Zych escaped a jam in the sixth inning (see above) but surrendered a two-run homer to Adam Rosales in the seventh after starting the inning by hitting Austin Hedges with a pitch.
STAT PACK: The Mariners are 15-14-2 with two games remaining against Colorado. They need to win at least one to finish with a winning record for fifth time in six years. They were 13-17-2 in 2015…The Mariners struck out 11 times after striking out 12 times in Monday’s loss to Cleveland.
QUOTABLE: Montgomery, a former starter, passed a test in his new role as a reliever by following up a strong inning Monday with another one on Tuesday.
"I really liked what I saw today," manager Scott Servais said. "Good feel for the curveball. He’s done it. That was the big thing, to get him in his mind, that he’s gone back-to-back days. And he had good stuff both days."
UP NEXT: The Mariners have an open date Thursday before concluding their spring schedule with two games against Colorado: 7:10 p.m. Friday at Peoria Stadium and 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Root Sports Northwest will carry both games.
Hisashi Iwakuma will pitch two-to-three innings Thursday in a minor-league game to stay on schedule for his April 5 start at Texas in the second game of the regular season.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners