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03/12/2013 8:48 PM ET

Felix stretches out with extra 'pen work

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Felix Hernandez threw an efficient three innings in his second start of the spring on Tuesday, dealing with the D-backs so quickly that he went to the bullpen afterward to throw another 15 pitches to build up his work load.

Hernandez allowed one hit and one run -- a solo homer by veteran designated hitter Eric Hinske -- in a 38-pitch outing in Seattle's 5-4 loss.

Other than the long ball, which Hernandez said came on a sinker that he left up in the zone, the D-backs had just one baserunner in the first three innings on a two-out walk in the second. So that was another reason the Mariners ace went to the 'pen for some extra duty.

"I needed to work more from the stretch," said Hernandez.

But pitching coach Carl Willis also wants the 26-year-old to begin stretching out his own performances, with just three more starts before Opening Day on April 1 in Oakland.

"Next time I'm supposed to throw 65 pitches or something like that," Hernandez said. "Carl told me I'd only thrown 35 or so, and they wanted me to throw more."

"He was strong, he used all of his pitches," said manager Eric Wedge. "He looked great out there today."

Hernandez was serenaded throughout his three innings by a hearty group of about 40 yellow-shirted fans in a mini-King's Court down the left-field line. It wasn't quite like his Safeco Field support group, but the "K-card" waving section got Hernandez's attention.

"That was pretty nice," he said with a grin. "Those guys are unbelievable, huh? Awesome."

Wedge evaluating leadoff options

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With Franklin Gutierrez and Kyle Seager getting the day off Tuesday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge went a different direction with his lineup and had right fielder Jason Bay leading off in a 5-4 loss to the D-backs.

Bay traditionally has been more of a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he came into the game with a .500 on-base percentage this spring and Wedge put him up top, with last year's leadoff hitter Dustin Ackley batting second.

Too much shouldn't be read into Cactus League games when regulars are only playing every other day and split squads sometimes water down lineups even further. But Gutierrez has led off seven games this spring, Ackley five, Seager three and Michael Saunders, Robert Andino and now Bay once each.

"I'm looking at a lot of people up top," Wedge said. "I'm not sure where Ack's going to hit, to be honest with you. I've messed around with a lot of different lineups and we don't really need to lock anything in right now. We're giving a lot of different hitters different spots in the lineup to see how it plays out.

"We want to be a one-through-nine team this year. It'll probably be the first time we've really been able to do that since I've been here because of the way the younger hitters have come along and the addition of the veterans, too. We should have a lot more balance in our lineup and be able to sprinkle the veterans around and hopefully protect those younger kids and let them have something to work off of."

Bay went 0-for-3 on Tuesday and Ackley was 1-for-4 in the second spot, with both now batting .333 this spring. Why Bay at the top of the order on this day?

"He sees the ball, puts up a professional at-bat, hits the ball to all fields," said Wedge. "There's a lot to like there. Obviously, we've seen him drive the ball the other way and we've seen him turn pitches around, too. He sees tough pitches and gets on base. We don't have a prototypical leadoff hitter really on our team, but we have some guys we feel can do a good job with it."

Bay has never led off in a regular-season game in his 10-year Major League career. Of his 1,169 career starts, 1,139 have come with him batting either third, fourth, fifth or sixth in the order.

Kinney likely to miss rest of Spring Training

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners reliever Josh Kinney says he's baffled by what caused the stress reaction in his back that will sideline him at least the next few weeks, but the veteran right-hander vowed to come back better than ever once the injury heals.

Kinney, 34, will miss most of the rest of Spring Training even in the best-case scenario. And he acknowledged Tuesday that there is no real timeline on how long the recovery might take.

The back of Kinney's left shoulder has bothered him since he drove himself from Missouri to Arizona for the start of camp a month ago. He didn't think much of it initially, but the soreness worsened despite continued work with trainers and a chiropractor.

Though he pitched well in his first three outings, things fell apart in his fourth appearance last week against the Brewers when he couldn't get through his scheduled inning of work. He finally went for an MRI that revealed a stress reaction, which is a precursor to a potential stress fracture in the upper rib.

"I'm just baffled," Kinney said. "I didn't fall, I didn't do anything. I don't even know how you get one of these, but I have one. It's odd, but these things happen. That's what [manager Eric] Wedge said, that's what the trainers said. It's just a freak thing and you get through it."

Kinney posted a 3.94 ERA in 35 appearances for the Mariners in the second half of last season. He figured prominently as a veteran right-hander in a young bullpen this spring, but now his immediate future is on hold.

"They told me a few weeks of doing nothing to see how it feels and let it recover," he said. "That's another question mark. There's no real set timetable on how long it takes to go away. I just have to see how it reacts. So right now I'm not doing anything except shoulder and elbow stuff to keep my [right] arm strong.

"I've been through a lot," said Kinney, who missed the entire 2007 season following right shoulder surgery after pitching in the 2006 World Series for the Cardinals. "This is not even a bump in the road. I'll heal up and be back better than ever."

Worth noting

• Anthony Fernandez, a 22-year-old left-hander, was optioned to Double-A Jackson on Tuesday, reducing the number of players in Major League camp to 56. Fernandez, who split last season between Class A High Desert and Jackson, had given up four runs and four hits in four innings of work this spring.

• Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw four innings Wednesday when the Mariners travel to Surprise, Ariz., to face the Royals. Danny Hultzen, who hasn't pitched since Feb. 27 after his last start was scratched because of a sore hip, will throw an inning in relief.

• Joe Saunders is on tap to start Thursday's Cactus League game against the Reds, followed by Brandon Maurer. Both are tentatively scheduled for four innings.

• Young prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are set to throw three innings each in a "B" game on Thursday against the Indians in Goodyear, followed by Kameron Loe and Carter Capps.

• Wednesday's game against the Royals was originally scheduled on a tape delay on 710 ESPN Seattle, but now will be carried live at 1:05 p.m. PT because of a conflict with the Pac-12 basketball tournament.

• Outfielder Casper Wells remained sidelined by a stiff neck for a third straight game. Wedge said Wells was feeling better, but would likely need at least another day before he's back in the lineup.

• The Mariners will host the Netherlands on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Peoria Stadium in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game. Mariners Minor League outfielder Kalian Sams is a starting outfielder for the Dutch squad and hit .267 (5-for-19) with seven runs, three doubles and three RBIs in his team's first six games.

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.