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Mariners adjusting Felix's spring routine

A year after battling shoulder issues, Hernandez says staying healthy is priority
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez says there's only one overriding goal this year as he embarks on his 14th season in the Majors.

"All that's on my mind is to stay healthy," the longtime ace said Thursday after the Mariners' first day of workouts under cloudy skies at the Peoria Sports Complex. "If I stay healthy, I can do good things. That's all I want."

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez says there's only one overriding goal this year as he embarks on his 14th season in the Majors.

"All that's on my mind is to stay healthy," the longtime ace said Thursday after the Mariners' first day of workouts under cloudy skies at the Peoria Sports Complex. "If I stay healthy, I can do good things. That's all I want."

Mariners' Spring Training information

The 31-year-old has been one of MLB's most dependable workhorses during his career, but things changed last year, when he managed just 16 starts and posted a 6-5 record and 4.36 ERA.

Shoulder issues put a serious crimp in Hernandez's season -- as well as the Mariners' hopes -- but the former Cy Young Award winner said he's feeling good now after a winter of workouts at his home in Miami.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Mariners have asked Hernandez to change his routine a bit this year. Instead of waiting a week or so after everyone else to begin throwing bullpen sessions, he's on the same schedule as the rest of Seattle's pitchers and will throw his first mound session Saturday.

"We all have things to prove, and he's one of them," manager Scott Servais said. "I'm anxious to see him out there. He'll be on a regular schedule, just like everybody else. He's looking forward to it. He's good to go right away."

Hernandez no longer is the flame-throwing 19-year-old phenom who arrived in 2005, but he insists not that much has changed in his approach.

"I probably look at more videos now," he said with a laugh. "But I'm not different at all. I don't need to make any adjustments. I'll just go with my strengths."

Video: Servais on Felix's health heading into 2018

Hernandez always has relied on an outstanding mix of pitches, including one of the game's premier changeups. His fastball velocity has gradually declined as his innings have mounted, having thrown 2,502 1/3 frames in his career, the fifth most of any active pitcher.

How many he can throw this year could go a long way toward determining how well the Mariners fare, which is why he's gearing up sooner than usual this spring.

"I just want to be healthy, that's all," he said. "I don't have to prove anything. I just have to do my thing. I don't have to prove anything to anybody else."

And so it begins …

Rainy weather in the morning caused the Mariners to limit the work in their first practice session, with pitchers' fielding practice eliminated to keep from risking injury on the wet infields.

But the 10 pitchers scheduled to throw bullpen sessions on the first day all got their work in on the mound, and the weather forecast looks clear going forward.

Starters James Paxton, Ariel Miranda, Andrew Moore and Christian Bergman were among those throwing 25- to 30-pitch bullpen sessions on the opening day. Also throwing were relievers Dan Altavilla, Shawn Armstrong, James Pazos, Marc Rzepczynski, Ryan Cook and Johendi Jiminian.

Video: Johns on Mariners' potential 2018 rotation

The 32 pitchers in camp have been split into three throwing groups. The second group will throw bullpen sessions on Friday, followed by the final group -- which includes Hernandez -- on Saturday.

The only two pitchers not involved in the early bullpens are Hisashi Iwakuma and Ryan Garton, both in camp on Minor League deals. Iwakuma is playing catch now but won't throw off the mound likely until mid-March or later as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Garton, who put up a 1.54 ERA in 13 relief outings after being acquired from the Rays in August, is being held out of early work as he returns from October hip labrum surgery.

Minor League dealings

Outfielder Junior Lake has a locker awaiting him in the Mariners' clubhouse after agreeing to a Minor League deal with an invite to camp, though the 27-year-old hasn't arrived yet and won't officially sign until he passes a physical. Lake played with the Cubs, Orioles and Blue Jays from 2013-16, and was in the Red Sox's organization last year.

Right-hander Tyler Matzek, a 2009 first-round Draft pick of the Rockies, signed with the Mariners and will report to Minor League camp, which starts March 7. Matzek was out of baseball last year. He was 8-12 with a 4.06 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) with Colorado in 2014-15.

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

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez