Lee, Felix pitch in simulated game
Mariners co-aces face batters for first time this spring
PEORIA, Ariz. -- A closely watched simulated game on one of the back fields at the Peoria Sports Complex went well for the main attractions on Friday morning.
Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee threw 34 pitches during a two-inning stint against batters who swung away, and right-hander Felix Hernandez played catch with Adam Moore. Batters were not allowed to swing at any of Hernandez's 18 pitches.
It was the first time either of the staff aces faced hitters during Spring Training.
"Felix looked great," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Cliff was actually falling off a little bit compared to Felix. Look at the quality of pitches down in the [strike] zone. It looked like [Felix] didn't miss a beat. He looked great."
Lee went first and last with Felix in the middle.
Lee surrendered two hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out one.
"I wasn't locating the way I wanted, but it was the first time out," Lee said. "It's going to be all right. My arm feels good."
The Mariners acquired the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner during the offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Phillies, only to have the veteran lefty sustain a left foot injury in January that required minor surgery.
That slowed him down during the first two weeks of camp, but he said Friday that the foot situation is not an issue and will not be an issue this season.
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So, it's full speed ahead for his first regular-season assignment, expected to be in the second game of a season-opening four-game series against the Athletics in Oakland.
"The next time I pitch will be in a [Cactus League] game, so I am right there with everyone else," Lee said. "Usually, I like to take it easy, but you know with the foot thing, I am trying to make up ground a little bit.
"I have been trying to be smart about it, too."
The Mariners want to limit Lee to about 25 innings this spring, especially after he threw a career-high 272 last season. Same goes with Hernandez, who tossed 238 2/3 innings.
Lee said he has no idea how many innings he has pitched in previous Spring Trainings and is more concerned about getting his pitch count up to triple-digits.
"When I throw around 100 pitches in a game and feel strong the whole time, that's when I'm ready," Lee said. "I would like to throw 100 to 120 pitches, somewhere in there."
Hernandez, who had a 19-5 record and 2.49 ERA last season and finished second in the AL Cy Young Award race, had it working in the simulated game.
"Felix looked really good," Wakamatsu said. "He used all his pitches, had a good changeup, good breaking ball. That is kind of what we wanted to accomplish here, get some hitters in there and get him back on the mound."
Hernandez will throw one more simulated game and make his first Cactus League appearance later next week.
Asked why batters did not swing against the staff ace, Wakamatsu said, "It's what we do with every other pitcher. The reason we don't want them to swing is we want them to try to finish those pitches, and some of those guys their first outing against hitters they want to try and cut it off.
"It's nice to give them the freedom to extend a little bit without the worry of a batter swinging."
Lee said that's easier said than done.
"It's like trying to throw strikes to a pitcher when you know he's taking," Lee quipped.
Hernandez said he was pleased with the brief outing and actually wanted to throw at least one more pitch.
"I feel good, I feel great," Hernandez said. "That is what I was looking for, just to feel good."
He understands why he's being brought along slowly.
"Last year I threw a lot of innings, the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training and then the season," he said. "I'm trying to just take it easy. That's fine for me, man. I am just trying to be ready for the season. That's the most important, the season, not Spring Training."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.