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Felix being eased into Spring Training routine

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners are in no rush to get Felix Hernandez throwing this spring, but rest assured, he'll be geared up by the time the regular season opener rolls around on April 1 in Oakland.

While the rest of the Mariners' pitchers have thrown at least two bullpen sessions and two batting practices in preparation for the start of Cactus League play, Hernandez has tossed just one 10-minute bullpen session and has nothing scheduled for the weekend.

The plan going forward?

"He has a couple more [bullpen session], he'll throw a batting practice and then either another batting practice or a simulated type of situation," pitching coach Carl Willis said Friday. "Then we'll get him going. The plan is to get him up to 95 pitches or so coming out of camp, and he'll be able to go 105 that first start."

That means Hernandez won't get into Cactus League play until the first week of March at least. But the Mariners know what the 26-year-old can do and are merely pacing him to be ready when the games count.

"It's just in respect to the length of the season and his workload the past three years," Willis said. "We're here a long time. There's no reason to start him as early as everyone else, because we know where he's going to pitch his first game."

Yes, Hernandez can safely be penciled in as the Opening Day starter.

"You can ink that one in," Willis said with a laugh.

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