John Jaso, who caught Felix Hernandez's perfect game in Seattle last August, got the first Oakland hit off the Mariners ace in Monday's opener.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Onetime Mariners catcher John Jaso admits he wasn’t showing much on-field gratitude for the gift watch he’d received before Monday night’s season opener.
Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez gave Jaso a Rolex in appreciation for catching his perfect game last August at Safeco Field. Once Monday’s game began, Jaso promptly thanked Hernandez by drilling a double off him in the fourth inning after the pitcher had retired the first 10 Oakland batters.
“I was going to tell him, ‘You’re not getting another perfect game on my watch’,” Jaso said with a laugh.
Asked whether he’d rather keep the double or the watch, Jaso paused, then replied: “I would have to go with the Rolex. I could get a double again another day, you know. A Rolex doesn’t come by too often.”
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Nor does a perfect game, as Jaso was quick to point out.
“Nothing will top the actual experience of being back there catching it,” he said. “But this was a great gift from him.”
Oakland hitting coach Chili Davis had asked Jaso before the game if he had any tips about how to hit Hernandez. Jaso said he told him not to bother — that Hernandez throws too many good pitches to have hitters go up guessing.
Case in point: Jaso and Hernandez got locked into a 10-pitch battle in the sixth before the pitcher finally notched a strikeout on an 87 mph changeup.
“In that at-bat, I struck out and got a lot of pitches,” Jaso said. “He was throwing everything. I mean, he was trying to strike me out with everything he had. So, as soon as I say, ‘Watch out for his changeup!’ then here comes a curveball. You know what I mean? And they’re all plus pitches. So, you can really screw somebody up by thinking too much. And I’d say the only way to get a hit off him is, don’t miss that one pitch.”
Franklin Gutierrez drove in the only two runs in the opener, but he was out of the lineup Tuesday as Raul Ibanez made his 2013 debut in left field. Michael Saunders moved to center field and hit in the leadoff spot against right-handed A’s starter Jarrod Parker.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he’s trying to get all his players into games as soon as possible and that the move was as much about Ibanez as it was Gutierrez. Wedge said last week that he’d break Gutierrez in slowly as the outfielder recovers from leg tightness that limited his playing time during spring training.
And on Tuesday, Wedge said that plan is still holding.
“We do want to make sure we take care of Guti early on,” Wedge said. “That’s part of it. Just trying to take care of him. The fact of the matter is, you still have to find a way to get Raul into the lineup, so, it works both ways. We’ll get him back in there tomorrow and Guti will be ready for us late in the game if we need him.
“But we want to make sure we build a little momentum with Guti,” Wedge said. “We want to make sure we keep him healthy because obviously he means a lot to us.”
• Wedge is the first Mariners manager to win his first three opening day games. He was 2-5 on opening day with the Cleveland Indians.
• The shutout win Monday was the 300th in club history and the 28th against Oakland.