Felix 'fantastic' in penultimate spring outing

Felix 'fantastic' in penultimate spring outing

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As tuneups for the regular season go, the one turned in Friday night by Felix Hernandez was nothing short of brilliant, and it concluded with something the Mariners would like to see as often as possible in 2013: a standing ovation as he left the mound.

The Mariners ace waved to the adoring crowd as he headed into the dugout at Peoria Stadium, and in the clubhouse later he said the reception didn't go unnoticed.

"Pretty good, I love that. I love all the fans from Seattle that are here. That felt pretty good," he said.

What really felt good, though, was marching through the Padres' lineup with hardly a hiccup. Other than allowing a single and a double in the second inning that didn't add up to a run, Hernandez was dominant, pitching six shutout innings and striking out nine batters while throwing a whopping 50 strikes in 70 pitches.

"I thought he looked great," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He was efficient, he was strong, he used all his pitches and had great command. He looked fantastic tonight."

Said Hernandez: "Everything was sharp. My fastball was good. I had a lot of command. ... Every start I feel more comfortable. I'm just getting ready for the season."

With one more start before Opening Day, it's clear Hernandez is on top of his game and that these last couple of tuneups have him humming along toward another stellar season.

Hernandez will make his sixth Opening Day start in seven seasons, missing the 2008 one when Kevin Millwood got the nod. His sixth start will match Randy Johnson for the most in franchise history, and Hernandez has gone 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings in his previous five Opening Day assignments.

"It always means a lot. Being starting pitcher on Opening Day is an honor," said Hernandez, who now owns a 1.64 ERA through 11 spring innings with 14 strikeouts and just one walk.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.