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Opening Day Starter

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Now it's official - whoever we send out there has a 100% chance of being worse than his Angel opponent.

Mike Hargrove rarely announces his opening-day starting pitcher until the final week of spring training, but the Seattle Mariners' manager already has made a decision for this year.

It won't be Felix Hernandez.

Of course, while the plan itself is a little disappointing, you can't argue with the rationale behind it; Hargrove understands that Felix is a young pitcher who needs to be protected as much as possible, so he's going to keep him away from situations where he might be tempted to overexert himself. Like, say, starting the first game of the season, at home, in front of 45,000 fans, against last year's division winner, opposite Bartolo Colon. That's smart, even if it means that Vladimir Guerrero gets a chance to smack around one of our soft-tossing lefties. Some things are just more important than the pride that comes with knowing you have a competent Opening Day starter.

Of course, you might be tempted to point out that all of Hargrove's talk about innings says nothing of Felix's pitch counts. Just last August, after all, he went on record in the PI as saying "we won't want him to go over 120, 125 pitches," which is totally crazy. I wouldn't worry about it, though - the organization understands the importance of keeping this guy as healthy as possible, and I've been given assurances that Felix will never be allowed to throw that many pitches in a game (not for a few years, anyway). He's going to be babied, at least as much as any guy who repeatedly puts himself though a violently unnatural overhand motion a hundred times every five days can be babied, and while that isn't going to make the 2006 Mariners any more likely to compete, it'll be invaluable to the team down the road.