PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's a long way until Opening Day, but the Mariners like what they've seen from Felix Hernandez in his first two mound sessions of Spring Training.Hernandez was among the final group of eight pitchers to throw their second bullpen sessions of the spring on Tuesday, and the
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's a long way until Opening Day, but the Mariners like what they've seen from Felix Hernandez in his first two mound sessions of Spring Training.
Hernandez was among the final group of eight pitchers to throw their second bullpen sessions of the spring on Tuesday, and the 31-year-old was encouraged by the results as well.
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"Way better," Hernandez said. "My mechanics were much better. It was really good. My timing, I wasn't rushing. I was so calm and delivered the pitch. It was really good."
Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and manager Scott Servais have been encouraged by Hernandez's focus and effort in the early days of camp as he looks to bounce back from last year's injury-plagued campaign.
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He'll throw live batting practice on Friday, then make his Cactus League debut on Monday against the Cubs in Mesa.
Servais said it's all on schedule with Hernandez, who is on the mound earlier this spring than his usual program. And the manager's not worried about the results at this point.
"As long as he's healthy and throwing all of his pitches, you just keep moving along," Servais said. "That's what Mike Leake does. He's not out there going at 95 or 100 percent. He's getting a feel for his pitches and making a few adjustments and getting comfortable with certain catchers.
"That's what we are looking for from Felix, just to continue to build so that when he does step on the mound for the first Spring Training game, he's got a few more bullpens and he's done more to get to that point and build on it from there."
Erasmo optimistic about quick return
Erasmo Ramirez says the sore lat muscle that led the Mariners to shut him down on Sunday had actually been a lingering issue over the previous week, but he believes the problem really is minor and expects to be back on the mound later this spring without further concerns.
Ramirez said the tightness in his back was slowly getting better, even while he was throwing every day, but he told the Mariners' trainers about it when it wasn't recovering as quickly as he hoped, and they immediately shut him down for two weeks.
Ramirez had thrown three bullpen sessions even before arriving at camp, and he tossed another Thursday without any noticeable strain. But the location of the soreness led him to touch base with the trainers.
"That's the first time I've had anything in that area, and that's what worried me," he said. "If it was my shoulder or elbow, I know what exercises to do to take care of it."
Ramirez said the muscles already feel better after a couple of days off.
"I'll be fine," he said. "Everything feels awesome. I don't feel it at all. Now I just have to wait. I have to be patient. The good news is when they give me the green light to start throwing, my muscle is going to be 100 percent ready to go and my mind will be free of worry."
Healy healing, but still sidelined
While the rest of his new teammates were on the field for the initial workouts, first baseman Ryon Healy was limited to rehab work and some mobility exercises as he waits for the stitches to be taken out of his right hand following Wednesday's surgery to remove bone spurs.
Healy said he started feeling soreness in the hand when he began hitting in early December.
"You always have some rust in your joints and hands when you start hitting again," he said. "I expected it to go away, and it never did. I eventually spoke up after a couple weeks and said it was too much, let's get it checked out. I took five weeks off, came back and hit and the pain was still there."
Healy said he's never had any issue with the hand before, and he figures it was probably cumulative over the years.
"That was the most frustrating thing," he said. "There was no initial thing I did to irritate it. I didn't fall on it, I didn't lift or drop a weight on it. It was literally just hitting. So I guess over time, it just built up. It wasn't even something I felt last season. It just started in December."
• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is well ahead of his anticipated return from right shoulder surgery as he took part in all the hitting and some of the defensive work in Tuesday's opening session. Heredia will likely be cleared for game action fairly early in the Cactus League season.
• Daniel Vogelbach and Mike Ford split duties at first base when the team took infield drills on the main field. As expected, Robinson Cano was at second, Jean Segura at short and Kyle Seager at third base, while new utility man Andrew Romine moved around at all three of those spots while working with that first group.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.