Mariners AAA club the Tacoma Rainiers started Felix Hernandez and Mitch Haniger last night in rehab appearances for a wild 12-9 loss to Reno.
The Tacoma Rainiers have been called on time and time again to provide major league-ready players for the constant influx of injuries the Mariners have had this season. More often than not, the former Rainiers have been serviceable while with the big club. The trend was reversed on Tuesday night when Felix Hernandez made his first rehab start since being injured on April 25th. He was not the only Opening Day Mariners player to be in the lineup as outfielder Mitch Haniger also got some reps in Rainiers red and white.
I went to Cheney Stadium to see this game for myself. The place was sold out. Everyone was handed red Rainiers “K cards” and some even got “We R Felix” Rainiers shirts. It was quite the frenzy. We arrived right before the gates opened and there were lines at least 70 feet long at each gate to get in. I got myself some Ivar’s fish tacos and settled into my seat as Felix was warming in the bullpen, all eyes on him.
Mitch Haniger was penciled in as the designated hitter and Felix was on a 60-pitch limit. The first inning was a good Felix-type inning. He struck out former Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte and induced a ground ball out in a scoreless first.
The second inning was not as good. Granted, Felix didn’t appear to be interested in battling and grinding every at-bat to throw a perfect game, but he allowed five runs in the second including a grand slam. He finished the second inning at 50 pitches and was pulled for Casey Lawrence.
Felix finished those two innings with three strikeouts, two walks and five earned runs on four hits. Again, this is not cause for panic as he was a bit rusty, plus I don’t think he was ramping it up like it’s late September. His pitches had some life and he touched above 90 a few times. All in all, no aggravated injuries and a step forward for the King.
Haniger had a better day. He reached base each of his first two at-bats on an error and an opposite field base hit. He also scored a run. He showed good bat speed and a willingness to run hard around the bases. He could be ready to roll by next week.
The crowd thinned out a bit after Felix’s exit. However, this game in of itself was unique. Both teams hit grand slams as future Mariners call-up Tyler O’Neill added one for Tacoma.
The score was 9-9 in the bottom of the fourth inning. There were a combined six errors (five by the Reno Aces), 21 runs and 25 hits. The Aces ended up winning 12-9 but it was certainly an entertaining night at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.