PHOENIX -- If one is examining Felix Hernandez's progress towards Opening Day, and being ready to meet the high expectations placed upon him, the runs the Brewers scored on him during Sunday afternoon's game don't mean anything. Hernandez allowed three runs in the second inning, two of them earned, despite only one ball being hit hard. Prince Fielder hit a leadoff single when he managed to punch one out to center after getting jammed in on his wrists. Johnny Estrada hit a fly-ball double to the opposite field. The Brewers managed a couple of close infield hits after that, and also scored a run on an error. In the midst of all that, Hernandez struck out the side.More
Hernandez also allowed a solo homer to Geoff Jenkins in the fourth, but otherwise looked to be in good form as he gets stretched out for the start of the season. He struck out six in five innings of work and recorded all but one of his outs by strikeout or groundout. Coming off of his last outing where he threw four scoreless frames against the A's, the stats -- three earned runs in five innings of work -- may make it seem like Sunday was a step backward. Hernandez didn't think so. "I felt good, and my mechanics were good," said the pitcher who will legally be able to buy a beer a week after the Opening Day start he is expected to make. "They didn't really hit the ball too hard." One American League scout behind the plate reported Hernandez, who didn't walk a batter, was throwing an "easy 95 mph" throughout his outing, but struggled a bit locating some first-pitch fastballs. "I don't like to walk people in Spring Training, so I was just trying to throw strikes all the time, and I just missed a bit with a couple of fastballs on the outside corner," said Hernandez. Considering that he can still look dominant even when he doesn't have his best command or is locating like he wants to, perhaps those expectations won't be too hard to meet after all. "The only thing you can worry about is your expectations for yourself," said manager Mike Hargrove, "and Felix is really good about that." Scary moment: Catcher Kenji Johjima went down after taking a Ben Sheets curveball on the back of the helmet in the second inning Sunday, but after a few anxious moments, he told the training staff that he was all right, trotted to first base and later scored on a sacrifice fly.
Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less