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Hair-raising debut for young Mariners pitcher

John Sleeper Everett Herald

PEORIA, Ariz. – Felix Hernandez said he’s getting a haircut today.

The much-anticipated spring debut of the Seattle Mariners’ highly touted 18-year-old pitcher came and left without much fanfare Saturday, but plenty of bustle and hair.

Because he let his black, curly locks grow out longer than he had in his young life, the former Everett AquaSox star’s cap fell off his head 11 times in his one inning of work against the San Diego Padres.

“It was distracting,” Hernandez said. “Everything was the cap, the cap, the cap. I felt OK, but because of the hat, couldn’t get into a groove.”

With his cap falling to the mound about every other pitch, Hernandez pitched the third inning and didn’t give up a run. It was, however, an eventful three outs.

Hernandez walked the leadoff hitter, Khalil Greene, who stole second when catcher Miguel Olivo couldn’t get the ball out of his glove.

Jesse Garcia moved Greene to third with a groundout and Hernandez struck out pitcher Steve Sparks for the second out.

He then hit Dave Roberts with a pitch to put runners on first and third. Eric Young, though, grounded to short to end the inning.

“I didn’t feel too bad,” Hernandez said. “But I got my pitches up.”

The Mariners like Hernandez for his size (6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) and the fact that the ball seems to jump out of his hand. He also has good control of his breaking stuff for one so young. Hernandez will turn 19 on April 8.

M’s manager Mike Hargrove has compared Hernandez with Roberto Colon, whom Hargrove managed in Cleveland.

“He throws hard with minimal effort,” Hargrove said. “There are just a lot of things he does that are real special at such a young age.”

Hargrove first watched Hernandez throw in the bullpen at camp. So impressed, he’s been open-mined enough to give him a closer look, rather than to send him down automatically because of his age.

Padres knock off Mariners

Ramon Hernandez hit a two-run double and Brian Lawrence pitched two scoreless innings to lead a San Diego Padres split squad past the Mariners 5-2 in an exhibition game.

Seattle starter Jamie Moyer threw two shutout innings, and the Padres didn’t get their first hit until Jesse Garcia sliced a triple down the right-field line with two outs in the fifth.

Relief pitcher Joe Dawley followed with an RBI single off loser George Sherrill.

Jacobsen continues work on knee

M’s first baseman Bucky Jacobsen, a big hit with fans with his long home runs in his 42-game season last year, continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right knee, which had given him trouble for three years.

It is hoped that Jacobsen, 29, will be ready by the regular season.

His rehab is an all-day, every-day task, with two hours daily on a stationary bike and two more in the weight room.

Jacobsen had felt knee pain for years, but preferred to think it wasn’t devastatingly serious. Still, the knee had to be drained of gathering fluid on a regular basis. Something, clearly, was wrong.

“I knew from the feeling that it was going to take a little bit to fix it,” Jacobsen said. “It didn’t feel good, but I’d play with that kind of pain now, for sure. But they won’t let me.”

Jacobsen had season-ending surgery on Sept. 16, after the pain worsened.

Ticket sales brisk

The Mariners announced that they sold a total of 142,557 single-game tickets as of 7 p.m. Saturday, the first day single-game tickets were available. Last year, first-day ticket sales totaled 161,659.

Tickets remain available for all games on the 2005 schedule, however approximately 4,000 tickets are all that remain for Opening Day, April 4.

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