Mariners’ Hernandez could be dropped from opening day start

AP

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Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez toils in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Safeco Field in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Felix Hernandez and opening day have been a constant since 2009. That could change.

Limited by injuries to a 6-5 record in 16 starts over 86 2/3 innings last year, Hernandez could lose the March 29 opening assignment to James Paxton after the left-hander went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 2017.

“I want to stay healthy. If I stay healthy I can do good things. That’s all I want,” Hernandez said Thursday when the Mariners held their first official workout. “I don’t think I need to make any adjustments. I’m just going to go with my strengths.”

Hernandez finished with his lowest wins and innings totals since becoming a full-time major league starter in 2006. He thinks he can make more than 26 starts this year.

Hernandez, who turns 32 in April, had a pair of long disabled list stints because of right shoulder inflammation and bursitis. He will be on the same schedule as the rest of the starting pitchers in camp, manager Scott Servais said, and is slated for his first mound session on Saturday.

“It’s not about the the first bullpen or the first spring training game, it’s about being ready to go when the season starts,” Servais said. “He looks great, he’s happy to be in camp, he’s excited to be around his teammates and see where this season is going to go. We’ve all got things to prove, and he’s one of them. I’m anxious to see him out there.”

If Hernandez does have something to prove, he isn’t saying so.

“It’s all about pitching. If we can pitch, we’re going to win games,” Hernandez said. “I don’t have to prove anything. I do my thing. I don’t have to prove anything else.”

Notes: 1B Ryon Healy will miss four to size weeks after surgery Wednesday to remove a bone spur in his right hand. Healy, acquired in a November trade with Oakland, is the projected starting first baseman for Seattle. Servais said Daniel Vogelbach and Mike Ford will get a lot of the opportunities to play first in spring training games with Healy out. ... The Mariners’ planned workout was limited due to wet fields from recent rain, though pitchers did some throwing. Paxton threw his first bullpen session.

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