King Felix makes spring debut in Mariners’ loss

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)—The pact went something like this: No nasty pitches to each other.

Before the game, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez(notes) promised his counterpart, Rockies top hurler Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), he wouldn’t throw anything too unhittable when Jimenez was at the plate. Jimenez readily agreed.

Yet they struck each other out in Colorado’s 5-4 win over the Mariners on Sunday.

With these two, every pitch is filthy.

Hernandez, making his spring debut, was equal parts shaky and sharp as he allowed four hits over 2 2-3 innings.

Not to be outdone, Jimenez turned in a stellar showing, allowing one hit in four innings.

“Two of the best pitchers in baseball,” Mariners coach Don Wakamatsu said. “Tremendous arms. I have a lot of respect for them.”

After this game, the two aces have respect for each other.

Hernandez threw a two-seam fastball to Jimenez that had Jimenez shaking his head in amazement.

Later, Jimenez returned the favor, tossing a sinker that tied up Hernandez.

“He threw hard,” Hernandez said of his rival on the mound. “The guy is good.”

This spring, the Mariners have been slowly bringing along Hernandez, who won 19 games last year and finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Before Sunday, Hernandez had thrown just two simulated games. He was on a 50-pitch count against Colorado, but went three over as Wakamatsu allowed him to throw into the third.

Hernandez was able to work his way out of trouble in the second after giving up two straight singles to Melvin Mora(notes) and Chris Iannetta(notes). He struck out Clint Barmes(notes) and Jimenez, before walking Dexter Fowler(notes). He then made one of his better pitches of the day, getting Seth Smith(notes) to ground out to end the threat.

He dodged a close call in the third when he was nearly hit by Troy Tulowitzki’s(notes) wobbling liner up the middle. Hernandez was able to fall to the ground and avoid the ball.

“Right at me. Kind of crazy,” said Hernandez, who signed a five-year, $78 million contract in January.

After the game, Hernandez described his outing as simply, “OK.”

His coach was more forthcoming.

“Good first outing,” Wakamatsu said. “I saw some real good qualities pitches.”

Jimenez had his best command of the spring, allowing only a single to Matt Tuiasosopo(notes).

“I felt good. I was locating my fastball and getting ahead of hitters,” said Jimenez, who will start the Rockies’ opener April 5 in Milwaukee.

In facing Hernandez, Todd Helton(notes) may have picked the wrong day to make his Cactus League debut. Helton walked and grounded out against the hard-throwing righty.

Any qualms about starting against a hurler the caliber of Hernandez?

“Nah, start from the top and work my way down,” said the 36-year-old Helton, who recently signed a two-year extension that likely assures he remains in a Rockies uniform the rest of his career. “I hope it helps me later in the season.”

Adam Moore(notes) had a nice souvenir from the game—a couple of stitches in his chin. That came courtesy of a clumsy slide into third late in the game. He said he stumbled in the dirt, leading to the face plant.

“Beautiful,” he said.

Moore also got to catch Hernandez for the first time outside of a bullpen session.

“The look in his eyes, you could tell he was hungry and ready to get after it,” Moore said. “It felt like opening day with him out there. It was a lot of fun catching him.”

NOTES: Rockies bench coach Tom Runnells was in charge Sunday after manager Jim Tracy accompanied the split squad to Hermosillo, Mexico, to face Arizona. The Rockies lost that game, 8-7. … The plan is for Rob Johnson(notes) to catch Cliff Lee(notes) on Monday against Arizona. Johnson had offseason hip and wrist surgery. … Ryan Harvey hit a three-run homer in the seventh for Colorado.

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