Hernandez makes his 2006 debut when the Mariners continue a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field.
When Seattle (3-1) sent Hernandez to the mound last August 4 for the finale of a three-game series at Detroit, the 19-year-old Venezuelan became the youngest pitcher to start a game since 1991. Hernandez took the loss that day, but finished the season 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA while limiting opponents to a .203 batting average.
Hernandez, who will turn 20 on Saturday, is set to make the start despite being bothered by shin splints in spring training. The buzz surrounding “King Felix” is reaching a crescendo nationally with the right-hander being featured on the cover of a number of magazines.
“I have two,” Hernandez said Wednesday.
Manager Mike Hargrove said Hernandez “might not be able to get to 100 or 110 pitches,” the current limit prescribed to the other starters, “but close to it.”
Hernandez went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA against Oakland last season in two starts.
Several of the Athletics’ regulars had trouble against Hernandez, including Nick Swisher—who went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts in the two games.
“He has great stuff. He was overpowering in the game he pitched against us in Oakland,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
Seattle opened the series with a 6-2 victory on Thursday led by a 13-hit attack. Carl Everett drilled his first homer as a Mariner as every starter had a base hit.
“He’s doing a good job. He’s putting the ball in play and seeing pitches,” mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.
Joe Blanton makes his first start of the season for the A’s. Blanton went 12-12 with a 3.52 ERA in 2005, setting an Oakland rookie record by making 33 starts.
The 25-year-old right-hander went 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts against Seattle last season, including a victory in his lone outing at Safeco Field.
Blanton believes his success is a result of not making the game too complicated.
“You take a little more time between pitches,” Blanton said. “You just try to slow the game down in your head and don’t make it too quick. Make it as simple as possible.”