PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez faced live hitters for the first time Saturday, throwing 35 pitches to the batting practice quartet of Greg Halman, Jody Gerut, Luis Rodriguez and Sean Kazmar.
Although the batters were instructed to hit away, there wasn't a lot of that going on. Kazmar managed one sharply hit ground ball through the infield. Halman hit a ground ball back to the mound. Other than that there were a handful of foul tips and a lot of watching balls buzz by.
Hernandez and Jason Vargas are being brought along a little slower in camp than the rest of the pitchers because of the number of innings they threw last year. Hernandez said he'd like to go faster, but knows things worked well last year on this same schedule. And he isn't about to mess with success.
"I want to pitch," he said. "But they're trying to protect me."
Hard to argue with last year's plan. He'll throw a simulated game at some point this coming week and then likely be ready for his first Cactus League start.
Hernandez said he's throwing all his pitches -- sinker, curveball, changeup and fastball - and even with the catcher telling hitters what is coming in batting practice, there wasn't much contact.
"I felt pretty good about that," Hernandez said. "It was good."
The hardest part about Saturday might have been the mob of fans clambering for his autograph at the day's FanFest at Peoria Stadium earlier in the morning.
"My hand is a little tired," he said with a grin.