Felix to make first spring start on Tuesday

Mariners move ace up a day; Paxton throws first bullpen session

Felix to make first spring start on Tuesday

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez's first Cactus League start has been moved up a day to Tuesday, meaning the Mariners' ace will face the Rockies in Scottsdale in his spring debut. Manager Lloyd McClendon also announced positive news on injured starter James Paxton as Seattle's pitching plans continue to fall into place.

Hernandez initially had been slated to face the Rockies on Wednesday in Peoria, but McClendon adjusted the pitching rotation Saturday.

Newly acquired left-hander J.A. Happ is slated for his Mariners debut on Sunday against the Reds in Goodyear, Taijuan Walker will make his second spring start Monday against the Indians in Peoria and Hernandez will now follow on Tuesday in a 1:10 p.m. PT start at Salt River Fields.

McClendon also said Paxton will likely make his Cactus League debut on March 17 against the White Sox in Glendale as he works back from a bruised left forearm that has sidelined him since before the start of camp.

Paxton threw his first bullpen session on Friday and will have one more bullpen early next week, throw one live batting-practice session and then transition into games.

"He threw extremely well. Really, really well yesterday," McClendon said. "He feels great."

If Paxton does progress without any delays, he'd be in line to make four spring starts before regular-season play begins.

The Mariners could potentially go with four starters the first week since they have an off-day on April 9 after their initial three-game homestand against the Angels.

"We've talked about it and really haven't come to a conclusion yet," McClendon said. "We'll see how it all plays out. There's a chance we could just go with four. It's nice to have those off-days early. We'll see what happens."

James Paxton on MLB Tonight

In other news Saturday:

Willie Bloomquist didn't have any issues with his surgically repaired right knee after going 2-for-2 in his first Cactus League game on Friday, and he will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Reds, this time at first base, according to McClendon.

• Well-regarded middle-infield prospect Ketel Marte committed four errors in two games at shortstop on Thursday and Friday, but McClendon said he wasn't worried about the 21-year-old and thinks he's just pressing early trying to make an impression.

"He's a switch-hitter. He slashes it from both sides, he can steal bases. He's going to hit and hit for a little power. And he plays the middle very well," McClendon said. "There's a lot to like. With a young player like Marte, they come to camp and want to impress and they probably think the manger is ticked off because they made an error. But that's not the case. You just have to relax and play. I'll keep running him out there. One of these days he's going to catch one."

• While the Mariners have a big group of left-handed relievers in camp and are looking to find a second southpaw to team with Charlie Furbush in the bullpen, it's not set in stone that they have to go with two when the regular season opens.

"Is it a possibility we'd go with just one? Sure it is," McClendon said. "We've got right-handers that can get lefties out. One in particular is [Danny] Farquhar. He's devastating against left-handers. I prefer to have two because of the workload. But is it a 100 percent necessity? No."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.