Starting around this time every year, teams begin to trickle in announcements for their Opening Day starting pitchers. This is really only true of teams with slam-dunk choices, like the Astros with Dallas Keuchel or the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw. The Mariners, too, have a fairly easy decision.
As Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports, manager Scott Servais has announced that Felix Hernandez will start on Opening Day, April 3, for the Mariners against the Astros on the road. It will be Hernandez’s 10th career Opening Day start for the Mariners and his ninth consecutively. The Mariners have won all but one of those 10 starts, with that lone loss occurring last season against the Rangers.
Hernandez, who will turn 31 years old shortly after Opening Day, wasn’t quite his usual dominating self in 2016. He made 25 starts, putting up a 3.82 ERA with a 122/65 K/BB ratio over 153 1/3 innings. The right-hander also dealt with a calf injury that hampered him between the end of May and mid-July. The Mariners are hoping Hernandez can return to being the Cy Young Award contender he has been over the last five years.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.