PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez wasn't sharp in his Cactus League debut on Monday, allowing six hits and three runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Rockies, who claimed a 6-4 victory, before being lifted by manager Scott Servais after reaching 50 pitches.But Hernandez said it was a
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez wasn't sharp in his Cactus League debut on Monday, allowing six hits and three runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Rockies, who claimed a 6-4 victory, before being lifted by manager Scott Servais after reaching 50 pitches.
But Hernandez said it was a typical spring opener and he felt strong and on track as he prepares for his 12th season in the Majors.
Lind, Gutierrez homer in Felix's debut
"It was good. I'm happy to be out there again," said Hernandez. "A lot of swinging at the first pitch, so it's kind of hard to pitch like that. But I felt pretty good. I was pounding the strike zone -- good curveball, good changeup, I need to get a little more command of my fastball."
Hernandez, who did have five strikeouts with one walk, will have three more spring outings before making his club-record ninth Opening Day start on April 4 at Texas.
Catcher Chris Iannetta, catching Hernandez for the first time, liked what he saw and put little stock in the results.
"He had good command of his fastball, it's just Spring Training," Iannetta said. "You can't really set guys up. Guys don't really go up there with a plan. They're just swinging. Our plan was to get ahead, we did that and they swung and ran into some balls.
"The results don't really matter. You just take away -- how did he feel? Is he healthy? He is. Did his stuff look good? Yes. That's all that matters."
The rest of Seattle's starters have already made at least two Cactus League appearances, but Hernandez is on his normal spring routine that calls for a later start as he readies for the long haul of the regular season. The approach has certainly worked in the past: Hernandez has exceeded 200 innings for eight straight seasons, and he's 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA on Opening Day.
Hernandez went 0-3 with a 10.22 ERA in four Cactus League starts last year, then threw seven innings of two-hit ball with 10 strikeouts in a 4-1 win on Opening Day at Safeco Field.
Hernandez threw 10 strikes in his 11 pitches in the first, but gave up a run when Trevor Story tripled to right-center and scored on a wild pitch -- the lone ball he threw that frame -- on a fastball that went behind the batter all the way to the backstop.
"That's an Arizona cutter," Iannetta said. "The dry air, and the ball just takes off sometimes."
Hernandez gave up a leadoff double to Ryan Raburn in the second and Raburn advanced to third on a one-out bunt single by Cristhian Adames. But both runners were stranded when Hernandez struck out the final two batters.
After Hernandez allowed three singles -- including another bunt single -- and a walk in the third, Servais replaced him following a two-run, bases-loaded single by Raburn that gave Colorado a 3-0 lead. Reliever Adrian Sampson eliminated any further damage by getting Tom Murphy on a double-play line drive to end the inning.
"This is Spring Training," said Raburn, a 10-year veteran fighting for a roster spot with the Rockies on a Minor League deal. "He's working on stuff. I'm working on stuff. This doesn't mean I'm going to be a Hall of Famer by any means."
Hernandez said he needs to work on his fastball command, but otherwise was content with his initial progress.
"It was my first time out there and [Servais] didn't want me to throw any more than 50 pitches, but I felt really strong," Hernandez said.
"We've got to be smart," Servais said. "It's his first time out and we had a pitch limit and he got there. He's healthy, all his pitches are working. He just got a couple balls up. He knows why [I took him out]. He's been around long enough. I'm just glad to hear him say, 'I feel great,' and we'll get him ready for his next turn."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.