PEORIA, Ariz. - Fans who came to the Mariners complex early got a treat and saw the reigning Cy Young winner throw a simulated game instead of pitching in Saturday's Cactus League game against the Oakland A's.
Having throwing against the A’s in his previous start, the Mariners decided they would rather have Felix Hernandez throw against a group of their own players than face Oakland again.
Hernandez didn’t buy the logic that it might somehow help the A’s to see him early.
“They’ve seen me for seven years already,” he said, smiling.
But manager Eric Wedge said that was only part of the team’s reasoning.
“It opened some innings for some of these other guys to pitch,” Wedge said.
Hernandez threw four innings and faced 18 batters. He gave up six hits and allowed two runs, while striking out six batters and issuing no walks.
Wedge was pleased with what he saw from his No. 1 starter.
“I thought he threw very well,” Wedge said. “Sometimes it’s tough to keep the energy level up in those types of games. But he did, and did a good job with all of his pitches.”
Hernandez never lacks for intensity, but admitted the situation affected him.
“A little bit,” he said. “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. Even if intensity was lacking, he made sure to make the innings useful.
“I felt pretty good, I threw a lot of strikes and I gave up too many hits,” he said.
Of the six hits, catcher prospect Steven 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 change-up that darted down out of the strike zone.
“Any big leaguer 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.
“I threw a slider that was hanging and he crushed me to the wall,” he said. “The second one ... I threw a fastball four-seamer right on the corner and he turned it around and hit another double. Those were good pitches.”
Afterward, with his dad and brother in attendance, Baron couldn’t seem to stop smiling.
He was chosen by the Mariners in the supplemental round of the first round (33rd overall) in the 2009 draft out of Ferguson High School in Miami.
Last season, he struggled at Single-A Clinton, hitting .182 with three doubles, a homer and 14 RBI in 45 games. The Mariners moved him down to short-season Single-A Everett and he hit .253 with 12 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI. He has had six at-bats in Cactus League play, with three hits including a single Friday against Cleveland.
“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. His first double 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 well Hernandez pitches. He caught him once last season, but as a hitter it’s completely different, he said.
Reliever Chris Ray and starter Yoervis Medina also pitched in the simulated game.
MARINERS POUND A’S
Justin Smoak is starting to see the results of all his hard work at the plate.
The Mariners first baseman hit a two-run homer and finished with four RBI, leading Seattle to a 10-2 win over the Athletics in Peoria on Saturday.
“Been working on a few things,” said Smoak, who began spring training with a 2-for-18 slide. “Offensively, just trying to stay in the middle of the field and (Saturday) was good, both my hits were in the middle of the field.”
Milton Bradley collected two more hits for the Mariners and is 7-for-18 with a team-high three doubles this spring. Chone Figgins, Josh Bard and Jack Cust also drove in runs for Seattle.
Left-hander Jason Vargas will start for Seattle when they travel to Tempe to face the Los Angeles Angels, who will send right-hander Ervin Santana to the mound. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on 710-AM.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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