CHICAGO – There was a little bit of surprise news after the Mariners' 14-inning, 3-2 win over the White Sox Saturday. Felix Hernandez's next start was being pushed a day to Friday, leaving the starter for Thursday yet to be determined. Manager Lloyd McClendon explained the thinking behind the move on Sunday morning.
"I want to line up my best pitcher against Oakland," McClendon said. "So it made sense to make that adjustment, and also it gives him an extra day. He can pitch on the sixth day again. All the stars lined up and it made sense."
McClendon said they had been looking into making this move for some time. If they stayed in regular rotation, Felix would have missed the A's and had three days off heading into the All-Star break. Now he will match up against Oakland's newly acquired ace, Jeff Samardzija.
Felix will still have enough rest to pitch an inning or two in the All-Star Game and could be easily slotted into the No. 1 spot after the break to open the second half against another division rival, the Angels, which also was taken into consideration. The Mariners are 5-5 against Oakland so far this season and 6-3 against Anaheim.
"It's who they face," McClendon answered when asked what the priority would be when lining up his starters for the second half. "You want your best pitchers facing your division rivals. It just makes sense. I would be foolish if I didn't want Felix facing Oakland and Anaheim."
So we have a marquee matchup coming up Friday and no starter as of yet for Thursday. McClendon said he had options but declined to list them. The state of the bullpen heading into that game could have a lot to do with the move they make. They could spot-start Tom Wilhelmsen and go inning-by-inning with the bullpen after that, or they could make a move to get Erasmo Ramirez up for a start, or even make a move with someone not currently on the 40-man roster as they have a spot available. We will learn more about this later this week.