Bring on season: Felix is 'definitely ready'

Bring on season: Felix is 'definitely ready'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez gave up a pair of runs in the second inning against the White Sox, then settled into a groove and closed out strong in a five-inning Cactus League outing on Tuesday.

Hernandez extended himself to 79 pitches in his longest spring outing yet and pronounced himself prepared to hit the regular season with one start left before Opening Day on April 1 in Oakland.

"Oh yeah, I'm definitely ready," the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner said after retiring the final nine batters he faced in Seattle's 9-5 victory. "I told you guys last time I needed to throw one good game and I'd be fine. That's all I needed to do."

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Hernandez is scheduled to pitch again Sunday, but the Mariners face AL West rival Texas that day, so he might throw instead in a Minor League contest. He said he'll leave that to the Mariners' coaching staff. His focus is simply on where he needs to be on the mound, and Tuesday was a good day as he finally fine-tuned his slider to where he'd like it to be for the regular season.

"The second inning was a little rough," he said. "I was getting behind in the count. But after that, I quit thinking about everything and just threw the ball down in the strike zone. And I felt better, much better."

White Sox right fielder Mark Teahen drove a single up the middle that knocked Hernandez off his feet to get the second-inning rally going, a similar situation to an early Cactus League near-encounter with a line drive up the middle in his spring debut against the A's.

"I fell behind in the count, so after that, I just came right in the middle of the plate and they almost killed me again," he said. "But everything was good today. The sinker was perfect. Curveball was all right. And the slider was way better than last time."

Hernandez mowed down 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. He said he'd like to throw 100 in his final outing. Manager Eric Wedge said he'd definitely get extended a little further in his final spring game, but was pleased with Tuesday's production.

"He had to work early, but I felt like he kept getting better as the game went on," Wedge said. "Again, just great stuff like we've seen all spring. He did a good job utilizing all his pitches. It's not necessarily a bad thing when you've got to work in Spring Training as you're getting built up and prepared for the grind of the season. So I thought it was a good day."