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Felix sore, but happy to avoid serious injury

Veteran likely to miss 1 start after being struck by line drive in right forearm
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez vows that he'll be ready to pitch by Opening Day, but he wasn't hiding the fact that his valuable right arm -- the one that has carried him to six All-Star Games, an Amerlcan League Cy Young Award and a perfect game -- was throbbing as he reported to work on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old took a wicked line drive off the bat of Cubs catcher Victor Caratini squarely in his forearm in the second inning of his first Cactus League start on Monday. The good news was Hernandez avoided serious injury -- no broken bones, just a deep bruise.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez vows that he'll be ready to pitch by Opening Day, but he wasn't hiding the fact that his valuable right arm -- the one that has carried him to six All-Star Games, an Amerlcan League Cy Young Award and a perfect game -- was throbbing as he reported to work on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old took a wicked line drive off the bat of Cubs catcher Victor Caratini squarely in his forearm in the second inning of his first Cactus League start on Monday. The good news was Hernandez avoided serious injury -- no broken bones, just a deep bruise.

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But general manager Jerry Dipoto said Hernandez is expected to miss only one start this spring, temporarily sidetracking the club's plan of pushing the 14-year veteran earlier in camp to get him ready after last season's injury-plagued campaign.

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"It [stinks]," Hernandez said. "I've been feeling pretty good, now I've got a line drive off the elbow. But it happens. I'll be ready. I'll be ready for Opening Day. No worries."

There was plenty of worry when Hernandez saw the ball headed straight at him on his 27th pitch of the afternoon Monday, however. The ball caught him flush, and he spun off the mound, dropped his glove in pain and fell to his knees.

For a pitcher, it's not fun having your life -- or a line drive -- flash before your eyes on the mound. And the pain?

"That was bad. Real bad," Hernandez said. "I can't explain how bad it was. I've never felt anything like that before. I finished the pitch and saw the ball coming and was just, 'Oh, my God.' My brother asked me yesterday, 'Why didn't you pick up the ball and throw to first?' And I was like, 'Dude.'"

Hernandez said he immediately lost feeling in the arm. And though the swelling had reduced after a night of icing, he still couldn't bend or flex it on Tuesday.

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"He's a little frustrated or disappointed," manager Scott Servais said. "I really liked how he was throwing the ball. He did a couple different things that he doesn't do a lot and was getting good results. Unfortunately, it's a little bit of a setback. It's not the end of the world. I think we get a ball in his hand as soon as possible."

Hernandez was scheduled for his second start Saturday night against the Angels in Peoria but will now be pushed back at least to sometime next week.

Servais was already waiting to see how things developed this spring before deciding if Hernandez or James Paxton would be his Opening Day starter on March 29 against the Indians, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out now.

Servais had been encouraged by how Hernandez endorsed an earlier throwing program this spring and was trying some different things on the mound, looking to rebound from last year, when he went 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 16 starts while dealing with a sore right shoulder much of the season.

"He was looking forward to pitching more frequently [this spring]," Servais said. "Obviously he's going to have a little setback now.

"But the important thing now is to get the swelling out of there, get him healthy and he'll still be in the mix here as soon as possible. We'll get him back on the hill and see where he's at by the time the bell rings at the end of March."

The line drive caught Hernandez right below his elbow on his "13" tattoo, which symbolizes his 2013 All-Star appearance. But the placement was lucky in many ways, hitting muscle instead of bone. And the timing could have been much worse as well.

"Spring Training just started, so it's a good thing it happened now and not at the end of spring or during the season," Hernandez said. "I'll be ready."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez