EVERETT – Part of the attraction of minor league baseball is watching young ballplayers and recent draft picks and trying to envision them moving up through the organization and someday reaching the major leagues.
On Friday night at Funko Field, one player had already made that journey and is trying to cling to what might be left of his storied MLB career.
Seattle Mariners veteran starter Felix Hernandez pitched two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts on a rehab assignment and the Everett AquaSox beat the Spokane Indians 5-2 in the first of a three-game Northwest League series.
Not only was the Mariners’ most veteran player on display on the mound in Everett, but their potential future was as well as the M’s first-round draft pick, George Kirby, relieved Hernandez in the third and struck out the side while allowing a single in a scoreless frame.
Hernandez didn’t get too much of a workout. He threw seven pitches in the first to retire the side in order. Derwin Barreto swung at his first pitch and grounded to first, Kenen Irizarry bounced to second and David Garcia struck out swinging.
In the second, Kellen Strahm grounded out on a 3-1 pitch, Luis Asuncion struck out swinging and Alexander Ovalles bounced to second on one pitch.
Hernandez tossed 20 pitches – 13 for strikes. It’s the second time in his career he has made a rehab appearance for the AquaSox against Spokane. In 2016 he gave up three runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The former Cy Young winner and six-time MLB All-Star has battled a right shoulder issue and a lat strain this season. The 33-year-old threw live batting practice at T-Mobile Park in Seattle last week as he tries to work his way back to a big league mound before the end of the season. He is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $27 million this season.
Hernandez went 1-4 with a 6.52 ERA in eight starts for the Mariners before being shut down in mid-May.
Everett (4-7 second half) took the lead in the fourth. Patrick Frick singled off Juan Mejia, stole second and scored on a double by Conner Hoover.
The AquaSox added to their lead in the seventh off Joe Corbett. Trent Tinglestad and Cesar Izturis drew walks to start the inning and with one down Cade Marlowe doubled home Tingelstad. Juan Camacho followed with a single with the infield in and Izturis scored to make it 3-0, ending Corbett’s evening.
Werner Leal came in and picked up a strikeout, but Billy Cooke tripled into the left-field corner and two runs scored to make it 5-0.
The Indians (5-6) broke up the shutout in the eighth. With one down, Obie Ricumstrict drew a walk and scored on a double by Cristian Inoa, who had two of Spokane’s four hits.
The Indians have scored 17 runs in their past eight games.
Indians starter Theo McDowell turned in his best performance of the season, striking out five over three shutout innings. He allowed one hit and one walk.
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