Felix Hernandez

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Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

World Baseball Classic Rosters Released

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The rosters for all 16 teams participating in the World Baseball Classic were announced last night. Here is where to go for team-by-team breakdowns. Here are the highlights:

  • There are 25 guys who made the 2016 All-Star team, including Jose Altuve (Venezuela), Nolan Arenado (USA), Xander Bogaerts (Kingdom of the Netherlands), Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico) and Manny Machado (Dominican Republic). There are 63 players who have, at one time or another, been All-Stars;
  • As far as past award winners go there’s two-time American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela), 2012 National League MVP Buster Posey (USA), 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (USA), 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau (Canada), 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez (Venezuela), 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colón (Dominican Republic) and 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne (Canada);
  • The Dominican Republic is the defending WBC champ, and they look to be loaded again. Coming back from the 2013 team is Robinson Canó, Santiago Casilla, Nelson Cruz, Samuel Deduno, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Fernando Rodney, Carlos Santana and Edinson Volquez;
  • The Detroit Tigers are the most-represented Major League team on WBC rosters, with 15 players from their organization in the WBC. The Mets (13), Cardinals (11), Indians (11), Mariners (11), Royals (11), Blue Jays (10), Braves (10), Dodgers (10), Phillies (10), Twins (10) and Yankees (10) are next on the list. As far as players who are on their team’s 40-man roster, the Mets lead with nine, followed by the Tigers and Phillies with eight.

The World Baseball Classic gets underway with pool play in four cities around the world on March 6. The final game will be March 22nd in Los Angeles.

Shocking: Mariners tab Felix Hernandez to start on Opening Day

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 14:  Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners looks on during batting practice prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Safeco Field on May 14, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. Players and coaches from all MLB teams are wearing specially made Play Ball T-shirts as part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball weekend.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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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.