PEORIA, Ariz. -- The first two innings of his third big-league camp went just fine for Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez. He classified the one-out home run he surrendered to Padres left fielder Paul McAnulty in the second inning Friday as no big deal, nor was the two-out walk to ninth-place hitter Adam Shabala later in the same inning. Overall, the future (if not present) ace of the Mariners' rebuilt rotation said he was pleased with his first outing of the month-long Cactus League season, which figures to end with him firmly established as the Opening Day starter against the Athletics.
"First of all, my pitches were working pretty good," he said after removing the ace bandage from his right shoulder. "I was throwing down in the zone with most of my pitches." Not at first, though. "He threw the ball well, but he overthrew today a little bit," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He was up with a lot of his pitches in the first inning, but he settled down. He's young and exuberant." Throwing primarily fastballs at the Padres in the Cactus League opener, "King Felix" allowed two hits and one run, walked two and struck out one. What pleased him most about the opener was the way he felt during the two-inning stint. "My arm action was nice and easy, and the ball was jumping out of my hand," he said. "I am in the best shape of my life and I can really notice the difference. I feel quicker. Last year, I was fat." He can laugh now about the excess baggage he carried a year ago, when he reported to camp with a round face and round midsection and didn't get into decent shape until halfway through the regular season. "I feel now like I did the second half of the season," he said. "I weigh 226 pounds and am trying to stay there." Hernandez admitted that he was a little pumped up for the Cactus League opener, which the Mariners eventually lost, 3-2, before 4,413 at Peoria Stadium, and blamed a misplaced changeup for McAnulty's home run to right field. He actually might have been a little too excited for his own good.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.