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Felix throws first live BP of Spring Training

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez threw his first live batting practice of the spring on Sunday as the Mariners ace progresses toward what will be a club-record seventh Opening Day start if all goes as planned over the next five weeks.

Hernandez says he feels physically stronger this spring after working hard over the offseason with Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who dropped about 30 pounds under the supervision of trainer Rafael Alvarez in Venezuela. Alvarez previously worked as Bobby Abreu's personal trainer. He helped Sandoval slim down, while Hernandez's goal was to get stronger.

"I'm throwing pretty good. I'm feeling great," Hernandez said. "That's why I prepared myself. I was hitting the weights. It was me and Panda working with Rafael Alvarez and he's pretty good. We were running, doing the little things, shuttles, hitting the weights, a lot of stuff."

Hernandez lost quite a bit of weight the previous two offseasons, but also lost some strength in the process. He feels more power in his lower body this spring, which should help both increase his velocity and his endurance.

"I think last year I came too light and it was too much," Hernandez said. "I had no power. My legs weren't strong enough. Now, I think I'm good. You have to figure out which way you're going to be."

If Hernandez finds the right balance, opposing hitters beware. He was 10-4 with an AL-leading 2.53 ERA in 20 starts before the All-Star Game last year, but just 2-6 with a 4.11 ERA in 11 starts after the break.

As usual, Hernandez is on a slightly slower spring schedule than most of Seattle's pitchers. He'll back off from live BP now and throw a bullpen session Wednesday, then he has a simulated practice game scheduled before making his Cactus League debut, which is currently projected for March 6.

He faced young prospects Chris Taylor, Gabriel Noriega and Ji-Man Choi on Sunday and it wasn't a fair matchup. Manager Lloyd McClendon said Hernandez was "unbelievable," then joked about needing to tweak his approach to get more out of the 2010 AL Cy Young winner next session.

Could he have hit Hernandez in his playing days?

"No, I could not," said McClendon, a career .244 hitter in eight Major league seasons. "I'm not going to lie to you. I asked Chris [Taylor] and he said, 'That's a lot of movement, Skip.' And I said, 'Yes it is.'"

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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