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Felix 'excited' to get season under way

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OAKLAND -- When Mariners ace Felix Hernandez makes his sixth Opening Day start Monday night against the A's, he'll be just the third Major League pitcher since 1920 to make that many Opening Day debuts before the age of 27.

But, no, the honor has not worn off on the 26-year-old Venezuelan.

"No, man," Hernandez said Sunday, standing outside the visiting clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum. "It's always special. Not just for me, but for all the guys. It's pretty special."

Hernandez, who turns 27 on April 8, will join Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden as the only hurlers with six Opening Day starts at that age.

Only nine other active pitchers have even made six Opening Day starts in their entire careers.

Hernandez is just eager to get going again on a new season, his ninth with the Mariners.

"Finally, Spring Training is over," Hernandez said with a laugh. "It was a long one. I'm very excited. It's another season. We are a different team. And that's why I'm pretty excited."

Hernandez knows his club is flying under the radar. After going 75-87 last year, the Mariners again are being picked to finish behind the Rangers, Angels and A's in the new five-team American League West by most experts. But the club has unveiled a much better offense this spring with some veteran additions, and Hernandez is anxious to see how things play out.

"We are just kind of an underdog," he said. "They aren't thinking about us at all. We just have to do what we need to do."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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