ANAHEIM -- Injured right-hander Felix Hernandez says his right arm feels good and he can hardly wait for Monday to get here. "I get to play catch, and I'm looking forward to that," he said prior to Saturday night's game against the Angels. "Pitching is a lot more fun than what I've been doing the last few days." The 21-year-old staff ace suffered a mild muscle strain in his elbow during Wednesday night's start against the Twins at Safeco Field. He departed in the first inning and has been receiving treatment since.
Hernandez, who surrendered just six hits in his first two starts, tossed 17 consecutive scoreless innings before experiencing pain in his elbow and said he still doesn't know what caused the injury and won't rush back into action. Nor will he change his approach when he does return. He'll still attack hitters with an arsenal that includes four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a curve and changeup. But he wonders if any one of those pitches might have contributed to the mild strain in his elbow. "You think of reasons, like maybe I was throwing too many curves," he said. "There's nothing I can do [to prevent a relapse] and when I come back, I'll pitch the same way." Manager Mike Hargrove said Hernandez will play catch on back-to-back days, followed by a bullpen session on the third day. That would consume the 10-day period teams are allowed for deciding whether to put a player on the disabled list. "I talked to him [on Saturday] and Felix says he feels fine, he feels good," Hargrove said. "We really won't know a whole lot until he picks up a ball and starts throwing." "It will be a big step," Hernandez said of his Monday throwing session. No saves to speak of: Most teams have played three weeks worth of games, but the Mariners remain a week behind just about everyone else, and closer J.J. Putz hasn't even pitched in a save situation. "Todd Jones leads the league with seven saves, and our guy hasn't even had a chance yet," Hargrove said. "This has been an odd season so far." The Mariners are one of only two teams without a save. The other, surprisingly, is the Yankees. But closer Mariano Rivera has at least been in position to register saves. Seattle is 0-for-2 in save opportunities this season -- both by right-hander Julio Mateo -- but neither occurred in the ninth inning. A reliever still receives a blown save if he enters a game in the sixth inning or later and surrenders the lead. This is just the fifth time in franchise history at least one save had not been recorded during the first 10 games. Seattle went 10 games in 1991, 11 games in 2004, 14 games in 1998 and 17 games in 1994 before registering a save. Thanks a lot: Outfielder Jason Ellison replaced Raul Ibanez in left field in the eighth inning of Friday night's game with the Mariners trailing by six runs. As it turned out, Ellison was in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning. The Mariners had rallied for two runs, had two runners on base with one out and Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez entered the game to douse the rally. After Jose Vidro grounded into a forceout, Ellison walked into the batter's box for his second at-bat of the season. "I had faced him before, so I knew what to expect," Ellison said. "He has a live fastball. I just tried to work the count and put the ball in play somewhere." Ellison worked the count full before striking out on a fastball. Right at home: Ichiro Suzuki and Ibanez have the two highest all-time batting averages at Angel Stadium for players with at least 50 games played. Ibanez had two hits in Friday night's game, raising his career average to .362 (67-for-185), while Ichiro went 1-for-4 and went into Saturday night's game with a .351 average (86-for-246) with 14 doubles, two triples and two home runs. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is third on the list with a .347 average (74-for-213). Late is great: When the game gets past the sixth inning, Mariners pitchers have been able to shut down the opposition offense. In fact, just 14 of the 71 runs Seattle has allowed this season have been scored after the sixth inning. That is slightly less than 20 percent, ranking the Mariners second in the American League behind the Red Sox. This 'n that: Ibanez is not surprised that former teammate Alex Rodriguez is having a lights-out month of April for the Yankees. "What people don't realize about him is that he works his tail off to get better," Ibanez said. "He's in those MLB 'I live for this' commercials and that's the way he is. He has a burning desire to improve every day and is constantly challenging himself." Ibanez said A-Rod is more than capable of hitting at least 12 home runs every month of the season. ... The Mariners went into Saturday night's game having scored in the ninth inning in each of their most recent three games. They scored six runs in all, but the gaps they tried to erase were too large. On deck: The three-game series concludes with a Sunday afternoon game at Angel Stadium. The Mariners start former Angels right-hander Jeff Weaver against right-hander Ervin Santana. First pitch is set for 12:35 p.m. PT.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.