PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw his first live batting practice of the spring Thursday and said he felt sharp in the 32-pitch performance on a back field at the team's Spring Training complex.
Hernandez, being brought along on his own slower schedule out of respect to the heavy load he's asked to carry every regular season, won't throw in a Cactus League game for another week.
"For sure, I want to go out there," Hernandez said. "I could throw at least two innings. But obviously we're going step by step and it's working pretty good."
Hernandez faced four Minor League hitters Wednesday, including Gabriel Guerrero, the 19-year-old nephew of Vladimir Guerrero. It wasn't a very fair matchup, but Hernandez got his work in and the youngsters had the thrill of their lifetimes facing one of baseball's premier pitchers.
"I'm just doing what I do, trying to get ready. I made good pitches today. They looked different, but they're going to get better," Hernandez said of facing the Minor League group that also included James Jones, Mike Dowd and Ji-Man Choi.
Hernandez had previously thrown three 10-minute bullpen sessions without a hitter in the box. He'll likely throw another live batting practice before being put into game action next week.
For now, he's pleased with his progress.
"I threw all my pitches today ... slider, curveball, everything," he said. "I'm almost there, almost 100 percent. My mechanics were pretty good. I had good balance and felt pretty good. I'm happy about it."
As were the Mariners' brass, as general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis all watched the session closely and came away pleased.
"Felix threw the ball great," said Wedge. "With regard to what we were hoping to see and what he looked like, it was fantastic. A lot of life, good arm action, good command, he was strong. He just really threw a good, live session of BP today."