PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the big picture, Felix Hernandez is preparing for his 12th season in the Major Leagues, his new manager is talking about how "it's time for Felix to pitch in the playoffs" and the 29-year-old is gearing up for a Mariners record ninth Opening Day start.But there
PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the big picture, Felix Hernandez is preparing for his 12th season in the Major Leagues, his new manager is talking about how "it's time for Felix to pitch in the playoffs" and the 29-year-old is gearing up for a Mariners record ninth Opening Day start.
But there are many small steps along the way to those bigger goals, and Wednesday represented another as the Mariners' ace threw two innings in a simulated game against Minor League hitters on a practice field at the Peoria Complex, before pronouncing himself ready for next week's Cactus League debut.
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Hernandez has one flat-ground throwing session later this week, and he is slated for three innings against the Rockies on Monday in a 12:10 p.m. PT game that will available live on MLB.TV. He's penciled in for four Cactus League starts before facing the Rangers on Opening Day in Arlington on April 4.
Hernandez struck out five of the seven batters he faced Wednesday, issued one walk and finished the day by inducing a grounder to first.
Though Hernandez was pitching in front of a handful of reporters and a couple dozen fans against hitters pulled over from Minor League camp, the six-time All-Star and 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner said it was business as usual.
"It's the same approach as facing big league hitters," Hernandez said. "They're professional players, too, so I try to face them the same way. I just try to treat it like a real game, go in there and make good pitches."
Scott Servais, who is managing Hernandez for the first time, said he's been impressed with his ace's approach early in camp and is eager to see him get into game action.
"I've always seen it from the other dugout or on TV in a different uniform," Servais said. "I'm excited and I'm sure he is as well to get it rolling."
• Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has yet to make his Cactus League debut after spraining his ankle sliding into second in an informal game situation against Minor Leaguers last weekend. The 24-year-old doesn't figure in Seattle's immediate plans as he hasn't played in nearly two years after defecting to Mexico, but Servais hopes to get him into a game later this week to see how he looks.
• First baseman Adam Lind didn't play for a second straight day on Wednesday, but Servais said the club is just being protective of the 32-year-old as he had back problems with the Brewers last year early in camp.
"We're just taking the cautious approach," Servais said. "He's getting his work in. He's good to go. You'll start to see him with more consistent at-bats now. We have a lot of first basemen in this camp, but the primary goal is to get the guys who are going to play the majority of time ready. Adam is fine physically, no issues there. Just back-to-back off days and he'll be in there [Thursday]."
• The pitching schedule for upcoming starters: Wade Miley against the Cubs on Thursday and Hisashi Iwakuma at the Giants in Scottsdale on Friday. There then will be split-squad action Saturday night, with Mike Montgomery making his spring debut against the Reds at Goodyear (6:05 p.m. PT) while James Paxton faces the Dodgers in Peoria (6:40 p.m. PT). The Cubs and Dodgers games are scheduled to be available on MLB.TV.
• Minor League camp officially opened Wednesday, with about 100 pitchers and catchers taking the field. About 50 position players will report on Saturday, and the first full-squad workouts will be Monday.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.