GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Mariners know Felix Hernandez isn't the same guy who hammered mid-90 mph heat earlier in his career, but they feel he needs to re-establish his fastball command and use it aggressively in order to set up his outstanding repertoire of pitches.And the 30-year-old ace embraced that
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Mariners know Felix Hernandez isn't the same guy who hammered mid-90 mph heat earlier in his career, but they feel he needs to re-establish his fastball command and use it aggressively in order to set up his outstanding repertoire of pitches.
And the 30-year-old ace embraced that philosophy in his first Cactus League outing Tuesday, focusing more on his fastball than usual in a two-inning start in which he gave up a run on three hits in Seattle's 8-1 win over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.
"His velocity was good. It was 90-92 [mph]," manager Scott Servais said. "I thought he was more aggressive with the fastball in trying to get that going. We all know his secondary stuff is really good. I was happy to see it. I think he felt good about it, the ball was coming out good. It was a step in the right direction."
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Hernandez isn't worried about Cactus League results, but he does want to build up his arm strength and endurance, both for his upcoming World Baseball Classic stint with Venezuela and for the long haul of his 13th Mariners season.
"I feel strong. I feel real strong," Hernandez said after his 33-pitch debut. "I'm healthy. And I'm happy."
Hernandez gave up a one-out single to Tim Anderson, but erased him on a double-play grounder in a 10-pitch first inning. Things weren't quite as smooth in the second when a single, walk and double resulted in a run, but Hernandez and catcher Carlos Ruiz felt a tough call on a 2-2 curveball in the walk to Yoan Moncada changed the complexion of that inning.
More important was the quality of pitches, and the veteran Ruiz saw a lot to like.
"That was the first time I caught him in a game and it was impressive," said Ruiz, who has caught four no-hitters in his career. "He's a guy that you do a lot of things with behind the plate. His command was good. He was throwing anything in any count."
Hernandez said he still needs to refine his fastball command, but felt his slider and curve were sharp, while his wicked changeup still needs work.
Hernandez will make another start Sunday against the A's in Peoria before joining the Venezuelan team, which will conduct its workouts in nearby Surprise at the complex shared by the Rangers and Royals before heading to Jalisco, Mexico, to pitch his team's opener on March 10 against Puerto Rico.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.