PEORIA, Ariz. — So, is it official? Will Felix Hernandez start April 6 in the Mariners’ season opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field?
“You guys have somebody better?” manager Lloyd McClendon parried Sunday in his morning news briefing. “I’d say it’s a real good chance — 99.9999 percent chance — that he’ll be starting opening day. Heck, they’d run me out of town if he’s not out there?”
Hernandez started the Mariners’ last six openers and seven of the last eight. He is 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in those games.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia previously announced plans to start right-hander Jered Weaver in the opener.
CANO LEAVES CAMP
Second baseman Robinson Cano left camp Saturday due to the death of his grandfather in the Dominican Republic.
McClendon said there was no firm date for Cano’s return.
Cano is 2-for-5 in two games.
Lefty Danny Hultzen is tentatively scheduled to pitch one inning Wednesday against Colorado at Peoria Stadium as the next step in his recovery from major shoulder surgery.
Hultzen hasn’t pitched in a game situation since lasting just two innings Sept. 1, 2013 while pitching for Triple-A Tacoma against Sacramento. He underwent surgery on Oct. 1, 2013.
The Mariners selected Hultzen, 25, with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft. He was 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 32 minor-league starts prior to his surgery.
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez’s comeback is on hold after he was diagnosed with a tightness in his right groin after leaving Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale.
“The initial diagnosis is it wasn’t as bad as they (initially) thought it was,” McClendon said. “We’ll give him a couple of days off and try to get him back out there.”
Gutierrez, 32, didn’t play last season in an attempt to recover from gastrointestinal issues. He spent the five previous years with the Mariners and returned to the club by signing a minor-league deal on Jan. 26.
Lefty James Paxton threw a 40-pitch bullpen with no problems from the sore forearm that bothered him earlier in the spring. He is tracking for a spring debut on March 17 against the White Sox…Cano’s absence turned into a starting assignment Sunday for rookie D.J. Peterson at first base. Previous plans called for Willie Bloomquist to start at first, but he shifted to second base to replace Cano….Lefty Roenis Elias will pitch Tuesday in a piggyback format behind Hernandez against the Rockies at Salt River Fields. Elias is scheduled for three innings after working two scoreless innings last Thursday in a start against San Diego…Why did the Mariners shift Hernandez up one day to pitch Tuesday? Had he pitched Wednesday, as previously planned, his next turn would have been the March 16 open date. Rather than have Hernandez pitch against minor-leaguers, the Mariners moved him up one day.