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Gonzales continues strong spring vs. Brewers

Whalen to fill in for Felix; Heredia makes Cactus League debut
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PHOENIX -- When the first two batters he faced reached base on a bloop and a bunt, Marco Gonzales could have fretted. Instead, the 26-year-old lefty fired up and escaped that jam en route to a scoreless three-inning start in Seattle's 4-2 Cactus League win over the Brewers on Friday.

"I need that experience," Gonzales said. "It's not always going to be flowers and rainbows. So I value that, for sure, guys on base. We've been working a lot with a man on second, so it was good to be in that situation."

PHOENIX -- When the first two batters he faced reached base on a bloop and a bunt, Marco Gonzales could have fretted. Instead, the 26-year-old lefty fired up and escaped that jam en route to a scoreless three-inning start in Seattle's 4-2 Cactus League win over the Brewers on Friday.

"I need that experience," Gonzales said. "It's not always going to be flowers and rainbows. So I value that, for sure, guys on base. We've been working a lot with a man on second, so it was good to be in that situation."

Everything has been good for Gonzales over his first two Cactus League starts, both of which were scoreless appearances. He gave up three hits with no walks and four strikeouts against the Brewers and has allowed one walk and eight strikeouts with the three hits over five combined frames.

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The Mariners are hoping Gonzales can effectively fill one of their final rotation berths this season. He has looked the part early, mixing in his changeup with a good curveball and an effective cutter that he's been able to bring back now that he's a second year removed from Tommy John surgery.

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"Health-wise is the most important thing, the recovery between starts," Gonzales said. "I feel like the jump from two to three innings is pretty big, because you have that second time sitting down in the dugout, so it just feels like a lot more. So I was happy with the way my body felt and the recovery this week."

• Gonzales rediscovers cutter in his arsenal

Whalen to fill in for Felix
Rob Whalen isn't about to pretend he's replacing Felix Hernandez, but the 23-year-old prospect gets his first Cactus League start on Saturday night against the Angels in place of the longtime Mariners ace.

"I'm not trying to look at it like that. I can't fill those shoes," said Whalen, the Mariners' No. 21 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. "It's just an opportunity to get some innings in and get some work. I just want to make the most of it and take advantage of the opportunity."

Whalen has been one of the Mariners' early surprises, throwing two scoreless innings of relief against the Dodgers in his first outing and impressing coaches with his improved outlook after struggling with injuries last spring. He eventually walking away from Triple-A Tacoma in July while dealing with depression and anxiety.

"I was excited to see him out there with how he's handled things with the whole turnaround in his life and see some results and how he handled it," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "The presence of being back in a game, even though it's just a Spring Training game, he just looked like a different guy."

Whalen back in Mariners camp with new outlook

Video: LAD@SEA: Whalen strikes out Seager in the 5th

Hernandez is being skipped for at least one start as he recovers from a bruised forearm after getting nailed by a line drive in his spring debut.

Worth noting
• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia made his Cactus League debut with a pinch-hit walk in the seventh. The 27-year-old has recovered much faster than expected after having surgery on his left shoulder in October.

"Credit to him for working his tail off this offseason and coming in here in great shape," Servais said. "That shoulder is real strong. You won't see him in the outfield for another week or so, but we'll get the bat going and play it from there."

Daniel Vogelbach hit his first Cactus League home run, a three-run shot in the fifth, and catcher Mike Zunino broke an 0-for-10 start with a single before Vogelbach's shot to right field off Brewers lefty Boone Logan.

Video: Outlook: Mike Zunino should continue to hit for power

Injury Update
• Left fielder Ben Gamel was a late scratch from Friday's lineup after feeling some pain in his lower back while hitting in the cage in the morning workout.

"We'll give him a couple days and see where that's at," Servais said. "I don't think it's anything serious, but we'll see what happens. It's one of those springs. We've got a few bumps and bruises right now. But we've got an off day Monday and we'll get back at it after that."

• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis will miss several days due to a strained hamstring he sustained while scoring Seattle's first run in Thursday's loss to the Royals.

• Right-hander Art Warren, the Mariners' No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, threw live batting practice on Friday and is expected to be cleared to start throwing in Cactus League games next week after dealing with a sore hip early in camp.

• Infielder Zach Vincej, sidelined by a sore quad the past week, took ground balls and worked out in the morning session. He could be cleared to start playing games next week. Fellow non-roster invitee infielder Rey Navarro isn't close to returning as he's dealing with what Servais called "a major hamstring issue."

Up Next
Whalen gets his first spring start in place of the injured Hernandez when the Mariners play their first night game, a 5:40 p.m. PT start against the Angels at Peoria Stadium. The 23-year-old threw two scoreless innings in relief in his first outing. Max Povse and Ljay Newsome are among the scheduled relievers. The game will be available on MLB Network and Gameday Audio.

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

Seattle Mariners, Marco Gonzales, Rob Whalen