PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez faced live hitters for the first time Saturday, throwing 35 pitches to the batting practice quartet of Greg Halman, Jody Gerut, Luis Rodriguez and Sean Kazmar.
Although the batters were instructed to hit away, there wasn't a lot of that going on. Kazmar managed one sharply hit ground ball through the infield. Halman hit a ground ball back to the mound. Other than that there were a handful of foul tips and a lot of watching balls buzz by.
Hernandez and Jason Vargas are being brought along a little slower in camp than the rest of the pitchers because of the number of innings they threw last year. Hernandez said he'd like to go faster, but knows things worked well last year on this same schedule. And he isn't about to mess with success.
"I want to pitch," he said. "But they're trying to protect me."
Hard to argue with last year's plan. He'll throw a simulated game at some point this coming week and then likely be ready for his first Cactus League start.
Hernandez said he's throwing all his pitches -- sinker, curveball, changeup and fastball - and even with the catcher telling hitters what is coming in batting practice, there wasn't much contact.
"I felt pretty good about that," Hernandez said. "It was good."
The hardest part about Saturday might have been the mob of fans clambering for his autograph at the day's FanFest at Peoria Stadium earlier in the morning.
"My hand is a little tired," he said with a grin.
Prospects' nerves rattled in intrasquad contest
PEORIA, Ariz. -- For young pitchers Josh Lueke and Blake Beavan, the nerves were rattling in Friday's Mariners intrasquad game. But that's pretty much the point, as the club prepares its bevy of prospects for the next step: Cactus League play.
Lueke got bounced around in his one inning of work, giving up three hits, a walk and two runs, while facing seven Major League veterans in the first live action of his career.
"There was a little more adrenaline than I was hoping for out there, that's for sure," Lueke said Saturday. "It was a learning experience, going out there and facing a couple big league vets and realizing where I stand a little bit."
While Lueke and fellow youngsters Dan Cortes and Edward Paredes struggled, Beavan fared well in his first shot at the Major Leaguers. The 22-year-old gave up a single to Ichiro Suzuki in his first at-bat, then got Chone Figgins to fly out before striking out Milton Bradley and Adam Kennedy.
"My heart was coming out of my chest when Ichiro came up," Beavan acknowledged. "I watched him growing up when I was younger. But it was a good feeling, more than just shaking all over where I couldn't throw strikes. It was more like butterflies. It was fun."
And a bit of an eye opener as well, when he threw an 0-2 changeup in the dirt that Ichiro somehow reached down and drilled through the hole at shortstop.
"I didn't expect him to swing at that," Beavan said. "It was a pitch definitely out of the zone. When he swung and made contact I just thought, 'Wow, that's why this guy has hit .315-plus every year. Like [pitching coach Carl Willis] told me after the inning, it's a good thing he's on our side."
Lueke had his own Ichiro moment. He got the 10-time All-Star to hit a hard chopper back to the left of the mound off his splitter. But the ball bounded off the rookie's glove and, thus, there was chance to throw him out.
"He was already down the line before I got the ball," said Lueke. "I knew he was fast. I didn't know he was that fast."
Being too fast is something that the young pitchers need to avoid themselves. Lueke said his mistake was getting caught up in the moment and not slowing things down while his adrenaline was coursing.
"You need to just take a couple deep breaths or step off the mound if situations are speeding up," he said. "I really didn't do any of that yesterday. I kind of just rushed to the plate and tried to throw nastier stuff than I could throw, instead of just letting my stuff work. I just need to go out there and use my fastball to my strength and pitch off that."
Bedard to get ball in Mariners' spring opener
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Manager Eric Wedge has set his pitching rotation for the Mariners first three Spring Training games, with Erik Bedard getting the ball to start Sunday's charity game against the Padres.
Bedard will be followed by Luke French, Manny Delcarmen, Denny Bautista, Justin Miller, Cesar Jimenez, Yusmeiro Petit and Chris Smith.
Doug Fister will start Monday's official Cactus League opener against the Padres, followed by David Pauley, Brandon League, Chris Ray, Chaz Roe, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon and Fabio Castro.
Then it'll be Nate Robertson opening Tuesday against the Rangers, followed by Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Royce Ring, Tom Wilhelmsen, Jose Flores and Edward Paredes.
All three of those games are at Peoria Stadium starting at 12:05 p.m. PT.