Most of the damage came in a fluky first inning, when a leadoff walk was followed by three hits that broke through the infield for two runs.
"Other than the leadoff walk, which I wasn't happy with at all, the rest of the inning was just all ground balls that happened to find holes," Washburn said. "I wasn't real disappointed with how it went, but obviously you'd like to start the game a little better than that. You try to get them to hit the ball on the ground, and usually good things happen, especially with guys like ours that play defense as well as they do. Those ones just found holes, and next time they'll find gloves."
A day after anointing Felix Hernandez as his Opening Day starter, manager Mike Hargrove announced the rest of the rotation. Following the right-handed Hernandez will be the left-handed Washburn, right-hander Miguel Bautista, lefty Horacio Ramirez, and right-hander Jeff Weaver.
Hargrove indicated that the final ordering had to do both with setting up lefties and righties as well as with performance.
Washburn was especially satisfied Saturday with his approach against the lefties in the lineup, holding Mark Teahen, Alex Gordon, and Ross Gload to two hits in eight at-bats.
"I was real happy today with how I threw inside to them," Washburn said. "I opened up the rest of the plate the first couple at-bats against them. I busted them inside and made them aware that I was going to do that. It looked like they had different swings and weren't quite as comfortable.
"That's going to be a big key for me this year," Washburn added. "I've worked on it now at Spring Training, and I've got to continue to do it."
In his final inning, Washburn lost a little ground to the lefties, giving up a one-hit single to Teahen then yielding a pair of two-out walks to Gordon and righty Ryan Shealy, loading the bases before getting Gload on a fly ball to center.
"I was just starting to get a little tired there," Washburn said. "Guys never like to admit that, but I'm old and beyond trying to be stupid. I'll admit that I was getting a little tired. But I was able to get out of it, which is good."
Stepping forward: Two days ago in Tucson, Hargrove challenged reliever George Sherrill, suggesting it was good time for the struggling pitcher to step up. Sherrill was sporting an 18.00 ERA in five Cactus League appearances, and had not pitched an inning without allowing a run in any of the five outings.
Sherrill took a step in the right direction Saturday, throwing a scoreless inning against the Royals, a lone walk his only blemish on the day.
"It's definitely a good start," Sherrill said. "I'm still not used to walking this many people. That's going to need to be ironed out."
But a mechanical adjustment may have helped iron out the biggest of Sherrill's problems. Focusing on shortening his arm swing, Sherrill was more aggressive in quickly moving his hands from the set position to the pitching motion.
"As short as I am, the little bit that I'm off is going to be bigger than it looks," the 6-foot right-hander said. "My arm swing's so short that it's a little deceptive and people can't see the ball as well as with somebody with a longer arm swing, so I really need to get my hands started and get them going quick."
"He still left too many fastballs up," Hargrove said. "He was more firm, more crisp. They hit fly balls for outs and fouled a lot of pitches off, where 10 days ago they were hitting those balls out of the ballpark."
Sherrill admitted to a heightened level of anxiety in the bullpen before entering the game, not so much because he thought his job might be on the line, but because he was eager to test his adjustments.
"With me it's always been something slow and gradually turns into something drastic, and then you got to kind of restart and figure out what you were doing wrong and fix it," Sherrill said, explaining the way his struggles can lead to an overdose of anxiety as he's warming up for a game. "You figure something out that you're doing wrong, and you want to get out there as quick as possible and translate what you're doing in bullpens, what you're seeing on video into games."
Bullpen TBD: Hargrove gave a vote of confidence to Brandon Morrow, the 22-year-old spring surprise fresh out of the University of California. Morrow has yet to yield a run 7 1/3 innings covering five appearances. He's given up two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
"His talent is so dynamic that no matter what you do with him, I don't know that you really set him back or hurt him," Hargrove said Saturday. "If he were to make the ballclub and pitch out of our bullpen that's not the worst thing. Here's a kid that threw in a major college program, and closed for that program, so he pitched in tough spots. He seems to be a fairly mature, self-possessed guy, especially for a young guy. If he continues to throw the way he's thrown, I know what my recommendation would be."
On deck: The Mariners head into Phoenix to take on the A's with Jorge Campillo toeing the rubber for his first Cactus League start.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.