Note: I bought a camera! Thanks Best Buy credit card. Anyway, I took some video today for Michael Saunders new stance (a later post) and Felix throwing in his simulated game. Yes, it's a little shaky.
Fans who came to the complex early got a treat and saw the reigning Cy Young winner throw a simulated game instead of pitching in today's Cactus League game against the A's. Having throwing against the A's in his previous start, the Mariners decided they would have Hernandez throw against a group of their own players rather than face Oakland again. Would Oakland learn that much about Hernandez? They'd learn what they already know. He's good.
Hernandez didn't buy the logic that it would somehow help the A's to see him early.
"They've seen me for seven years already," he said smiling.
Besides, the Hernandez in spring training is vastly different than the Hernandez in the regular season. The intensity, the stuff and the attitude is different. In fact, the Hernandez that pitched in the simulated game was different than the Hernandez that pitches in Cactus League games. The intensity of not having actual game situations, umpires and real opponents affected his usual intensity.
"A little bit," he admitted. "But I was doing my work. I was trying to get my pitch count and work on all my pitches. It’s not as high intensity though. It’s a good workout."
It's not to say Hernandez was out there coasting. His competitive nature takes over. And even if he wasn't at normal game intensity, he's still working hard.
Hernandez threw four innings and faced 18 batters. He gave up six hits and allowed two runs, while striking out six batters and not walking any.
"I felt pretty good, I threw a lot of strikes and I gave up too many hits," he said.
Of the six hits, catching prospect Steve Baron had two doubles, Mike Carp had a single and a double, Kyle Seager had a sharp single and Greg Halman had a single.
"We've got some good talent here," Hernandez said. "They swing the bat pretty good take some good pitches.''
Seager took a pitch in his at-bat that Hernandez couldn't believe. It was a 0-1 changeup that darted down out of the strike zone.
"Any big leauger would swing at that pitch, and he took it," Hernandez said. "I said, 'boy, you're good.'"
He was equally impressed with the two doubles from Baron, particularly the approach the 20-year-old showed at the plate.
“In the first at-bat, I threw all my pitches and he fouled off all my pitches,” he said. “I threw a slider that was hanging and he crushed me to the wall. The second one, I threw a curveball for a strike and I threw fastball four-seamer right on the corner and he turned it around and hit another double. Those were good pitches.”
Afterward, Baron couldn't seem to stop smiling. With his dad and brother in attendance, he'd ripped two legit doubles off of the Cy Young winner.
Baron was chosen by the Mariners in the supplemental round of the first round (33rd overall) of the 2009 draft out of John A. Ferguson High School in Miami.
Last season, he struggled at Class A Clinton, hitting just .182 with three doubles, a homer and 14 RBI in 45 games. The Mariners moved him down to Class A Everett and hit .253 with 12 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI. He's extremely raw. Yesterday he had a sharp single late in the game against the Cleveland Indians. He has six at-bats in Cactus League games and has three hits.
"I’m seeing the ball well and my swing feels good," Baron said.
Of course, it was a completely different feeling when he found out he would be hitting against Hernandez.
"I walked into the batter box, and I told (Chris) Gimenez I can’t believe I’m facing Felix," he said. "I didn’t expect to do much."
But he did. The first double looked like it might be a home run. It was about two feet from going out in left-center.
"It was a good rush, I squared the ball up and it felt good," he said. "I thought it was gone. The ball does carry well here."
Still, Baron was amazed at how good Hernandez's stuff is when you are facing him. He caught him once last season, but as a hitter it's completely different.
"It's a lot easier to catch him," Baron said. "As a hitter, it's different."
'My second at-bat, he threw me a curveball that was at my head and landed for a strike," Baron said. "I was like wow, and I thought it was going to hit me and it landed for a strike. His stuff is pretty nasty, especially his changeup, it comes in and drops like a splitter."
Hernandez wasn't the only one to throw in the simulated game. Reliever Chris Ray and starter Yoervis Medina also pitched.
Ray, who's battling a strained calf, faced seven batters and gave up a run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout. He threw 23 pitches with 12 for strikes.
Medina pitched three innings and faced 14 hitters, giving up two runs on four hits. He struck out three, walked two and hit Carlos Triunfel with a pitch.