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Opening Day starter for Mariners TBD

Felix holds active streak with 9 straight opener nods
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the past nine years, choosing an Opening Day starter has generally been a foregone conclusion for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez has handled those duties every season since 2009, the longest active streak of any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

But Hernandez, who has started 10 of the past 11 openers, is coming off an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he went 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 16 starts, while James Paxton emerged as one of the top left-handed starters in the game, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 24 outings.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the past nine years, choosing an Opening Day starter has generally been a foregone conclusion for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez has handled those duties every season since 2009, the longest active streak of any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

But Hernandez, who has started 10 of the past 11 openers, is coming off an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he went 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 16 starts, while James Paxton emerged as one of the top left-handed starters in the game, going 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 24 outings.

So manager Scott Servais will give things time before making a decision.

"We'll see how things are progressing throughout the spring," Servais said Monday. "Obviously it gets to a point in the spring where you have to make a decision and line up your rotation the right way. But we certainly have guys that are capable of doing that.

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"We saw what Pax did last year, kind of stepping forward for a nice stretch of time and really leading our staff. Obviously everybody knows what Felix has done here through the course of his career. Mike Leake had a nice debut for us last year. We have plenty of guys that can go ahead and take that ball."

The Mariners have time to work things out. The first full-squad workout will be Tuesday and a 32-game Cactus League schedule opens Friday, which allows for as many as six outings each for Hernandez, Paxton and the rest of Seattle's starting candidates.

Video: Felix Hernandez talks about his offseason workouts

Mapping out the early rotation

Ariel Miranda and Andrew Moore, the top two candidates to fill in for Erasmo Ramirez while he's sidelined by a strained lat muscle, are tentatively slated to pitch two innings each in Friday's 12:10 p.m. PT Cactus League opener vs. the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex.

Leake is scheduled to start Saturday's game against the White Sox in Peoria, followed by Marco Gonzales on Sunday against the Dodgers in Peoria. Both games will be available on MLB.TV.

Hernandez is lined up to open against the Cubs on Monday, Feb. 26, in Mesa, with Paxton facing the Padres on Feb. 27 in Peoria.

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

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez, James Paxton