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Hernandez set for 2019 debut vs. Angels

Armstrong making progress in recovery from oblique injury
@gregjohnsmlb
March 25, 2019

SEATTLE -- Félix Hernández will pitch a five-inning simulated game on Wednesday to get his pitch count built up and then make his first regular-season start Monday against the Angels. The Mariners won’t use the veteran right-hander in the upcoming four-game series against the defending World Series champion Red Sox,

SEATTLE -- Félix Hernández will pitch a five-inning simulated game on Wednesday to get his pitch count built up and then make his first regular-season start Monday against the Angels.

The Mariners won’t use the veteran right-hander in the upcoming four-game series against the defending World Series champion Red Sox, instead holding him until the opener of the two-game set with the Halos.

Marco Gonzales, who beat the A’s on Opening Day in Tokyo last Wednesday, will pitch Thursday’s 4:10 p.m. PT home opener against Red Sox ace Chris Sale.

Yusei Kikuchi, who made his MLB debut in the second game of the Opening Series in Japan, will start Friday’s 7:10 p.m. game. Mike Leake has the call for Saturday at 6:10 p.m., and Wade LeBlanc will wrap up the Red Sox series on Sunday at 1:10 p.m.

The Red Sox haven’t named their starters beyond the opener yet.

Leake and Hernandez pitched in exhibitions in Tokyo last week against the Yomiuri Giants. LeBlanc was limited to throwing in the Tokyo Dome bullpen during that trip. Leake got in another exhibition start on Monday against the Padres at T-Mobile Park, and manager Scott Servais has LeBlanc lined up to face San Diego on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. after initially talking about pitching Hernandez in that game.

“Wade hasn’t pitched in a long, long time,” Servais said. “We knew this spring would be clunky. We’re just trying to get guys ready to go, and we thought it’d be best to give Wade the start tomorrow.”

Hernandez instead will throw five innings in a simulated-game situation against Mariners hitters on Wednesday and then be ready to make his season debut five days later.

Armstrong recovering quickly
Oblique strains can be difficult for pitchers, but Mariners reliever Shawn Armstrong was already playing catch on Monday and is optimistic about being back in action not long after his 10-day injury list stint expires in mid-April.

Armstrong strained his left oblique in his final Cactus League outing in Arizona on March 13, the night before boarding the team charter to Japan. He was diagnosed with a Grade 1 (the least serious) strain in Tokyo and placed on the IL, which means he has to sit out at least through the first game of Seattle’s upcoming road trip to Chicago and Kansas City.

Armstrong made 25 throws at 70 feet on Monday and will advance to 90 feet on Tuesday, then continue building his arm back up so he can rejoin the bullpen as soon as possible.

“We’re in a good spot,” Armstrong said. “If things keep going according to plan, I could come off April 6 or 8, around there. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway. I’ll just trust the process, but the good thing is I’m feeling better.”

Armstrong figured to be one of the Mariners' primary setup men prior to his injury after posting a 1.23 ERA in 14 outings as a late-season callup. His return certainly will be welcomed by a club whose bullpen has undergone a major makeover.

Worth noting
• Two other injured relievers are also making progress. Veteran right-hander Anthony Swarzak threw an inning in a Minor League game last week as he returns from a shoulder issue that has bothered him since last year. Gerson Bautista is playing catch as he works back from a strained right pectoral muscle.

• Third baseman Kyle Seager had the cast removed from his right hand on Monday but hasn’t been cleared yet to begin baseball activities. Seager will be sidelined at least another 10-12 weeks after surgery on a torn tendon.

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