No one had to remind Felix Hernandez about the rules of facing Barry Bonds. Hernandez remembers his very first time facing the San Francisco...
PEORIA, Ariz. — No one had to remind Felix Hernandez about the rules of facing Barry Bonds.
Hernandez remembers his very first time facing the San Francisco Giants slugger last June 16 at Safeco Field, when Bonds crushed a second-inning fastball some 462 feet into the right-field seats. The 718th homer of Bonds’ career was the first of three Hernandez allowed that day, and he is well aware of why it happened.
“Bonds is a superstar,” Hernandez said after the Giants’ 5-4 win over the Mariners. “When you pitch to Bonds, you’ve got to make your pitch. If you make a mistake, he’ll hit a homer.”
Hernandez worked at keeping his pitches down in the zone. Unlike his spring debut last Friday, he was more successful this time.
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Bonds barely got wood on a first-inning offering, but his blooper to left dropped between two fielders for a double. His next time up, though, Bonds was caught looking at a 2-2 curve from Hernandez that ended the 20-year-old hurler’s third and final frame.
“I felt better this start than my other one,” said Hernandez, who got a hefty round of high-fives and backslaps in the dugout after the Bonds whiff. “I got all my pitches down in the zone. Just one curveball, I left it up.”
His one mistake was driven by ex-Mariners outfielder Randy Winn over the wall in right-center for a second-inning solo homer.
Other than that, Hernandez needed just 35 pitches — 25 for strikes — to get through his three innings. He says the curveball that worked so well for him in his second-half debut in 2005 vanished at times last year.
“This year, it’s coming around,” he said, “and I feel pretty good.”
Lopez a quick hit
Hard to believe second baseman Jose Lopez hadn’t played a game in two months, given how he looked in his first-inning at-bat against veteran Giants pitcher Matt Morris. Lopez stepped in with Ichiro on first base and took a pitch the opposite way to right field for a single.
“I took a couple of pitches to see the ball, see a breaking pitch,” said Lopez, who sprained his ankle on Jan. 3 playing winter ball in his native Venezuela. “I felt comfortable today. I saw a couple of pitches, felt great, took the ball the other way — which is what you’re looking for.
“Especially with a veteran on the mound. I saw good pitches.”
Lopez finished the day 1 for 3 and will get a day off today as manager Mike Hargrove takes his time easing him into the lineup.
Ibanez in, Beltre out
The Mariners welcomed Raul Ibanez back to the lineup just in time to see Adrian Beltre come up with a sore shoulder. Ibanez went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles, an RBI and a run scored in his first game since tweaking his shoulder on a swing in Sunday’s contest against San Francisco.
But Beltre was a late scratch after reporting soreness in his shoulder. Hargrove said Beltre’s soreness might have come from too many practice swings taken during the course of his daily workout sessions and that backing him off is just precautionary and nothing serious.
Small on the mend
Non-roster pitcher Aaron Small threw off flat ground on Wednesday, but is at least four or five days away from pitching in a game. Small had been scheduled to pitch two innings last Saturday as the former New York Yankee — who went 10-0 two years ago — attempts to make it with the Mariners as a long reliever.
But he was felled by back spasms that morning while participating in fielding drills.
“I did about 20 of them, and I just felt it seize up,” said Small, who will likely throw a bullpen session in the next two days before being allowed into a game.
The timing could not have been worse for the 34-year-old, who faces severe competition from several hopefuls.
“It hurts, man,” he said. “I was feeling so good, and then it happened.”
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