PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez liked the way he finished up his second Cactus League start on Sunday, and now the Mariners' veteran right-hander will see if he can carry that over into the World Baseball Classic as he heads off to join Team Venezuela.Hernandez gave up a pair of
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez liked the way he finished up his second Cactus League start on Sunday, and now the Mariners' veteran right-hander will see if he can carry that over into the World Baseball Classic as he heads off to join Team Venezuela.
Hernandez gave up a pair of first-inning runs to the A's in a 5-4 loss, but he was encouraged by his final two frames and a 1-2-3 third in which he struck out Adam Rosales and Stephen Vogt.
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Hernandez continues experimenting with some things he thinks will help in the long run, while also trying to gear up for a bounceback season.
"He always looks good," said Vogt. "He's never a fun at-bat, never fun to face, but I noticed he was working on some things today and the ball was moving all over the place like normal. He stayed out of the middle of the plate like normal. The thing with Felix is you have to get to him early, and we did today."
The 30-year-old Hernandez will work out with his Venezuela teammates at the Rangers' facility in nearby Surprise for the next few days, and then he'll start his team's opening game Friday against Puerto Rico.
"I'm excited, real excited," Hernandez said. "I had the chance to play in 2009, and it was really good. I missed it in 2013, so I'm excited for this one."
In '13, Hernandez stayed with the Mariners while negotiations were underway on his seven-year, $175 million contract extension. But he's eager to represent his country again and motivated to put together a big season for the Mariners upon his return.
With that in mind, the Mariners have asked him to focus more on establishing fastball command to help set up his array of offspeed offerings, and he said there was progress on that front in the final inning of his 50-pitch outing on Sunday.
"Definitely," he said. "I was more confident, more calm and threw strikes."
Now he's ready to represent his native Venezuela, which needs to finish in the top two in a four-team pool in Jalisco, Mexico, that also includes Puerto Rico, Italy and Mexico. If Venezuela advances, the second round runs from March 14-19 in San Diego, with the championship round March 20-22 in Los Angeles.
With considerable political strife in his homeland, Hernandez would most like to provide his country with something positive to hold onto in the baseball world.
"It's really important to give Venezuela a victory after everything that is happening and the situation there being so bad," he said. "A win for Venezuela would be meaningful."
And the Mariners? They'd just like to see him return in good health.
"He's in a little different spot than he's probably ever been before, being challenged a little bit more and he wants to bounce back and have a big year for us," said manager Scott Servais. "The WBC, although he's competitive, the way we look at it, get your 60-65 pitches in and come back. That's what I'm kind of hoping for. We have a big year ahead of us, and we're certainly going to need him."
The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
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