Felix Hernandez finally made his long-awaited spring training debut Thursday, allowing one run on two hits in two innings, but the star of Seattle’s 12-2 romp over the Kansas City Royals in Surprise was No. 9 hitter and non-roster invitee Stefen Romero, who belted a grand slam and a three-run homer. Romero produced four hits to go with his seven RBIs.
A 25-year-old second-base prospect from Oregon State who had not delivered an extra-base hit in six previous games, Romero belted his slam as the Mariners jumped ahead 6-1 with a five-run fourth inning against Guillermo Moscoso. Romero added a three-run shot in the ninth inning against minor league pitcher Anthony Ortega.
Casper Wells also made a case for a roster spot with a three-run homer and four RBIs as the previously unbeaten Royals fell to 11-1-1. The Mariners, who had a 10-game winning streak halted Wednesday, knocked out 12 hits against seven Royals pitchers.
In the other split-squad game, in Phoenix, Oakland defeated the Mariners 7-3 as Seattle starter Brandon Maurer allowed one run on four hits in three innings. But the A’s pounded relievers James Paxton and D.J. Mitchell, both non-roster invitees, for five earned runs in a combined two innings. The Mariners had 11 hits in the loss, two each by Robert Adino and Kendrys Morales.
Hernandez, working for the first time since signing a $175 million contract, gave up one run in the second inning on Lorenzo Cain’s single and David Lough’s double. Those were the only baserunners against the Mariners’ ace, who struck out two and threw 33 pitches, 19 for strikes.
“I threw more fastballs than anything else,” said Hernandez. “And I felt pretty good.”
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched three innings in relief of Hernandez, allowed one hit and collected the victory, his first of the spring.
On Friday, RHP Hector Noesi will get the start against the A’s in a 12:05 p.m. PT game at Peoria Stadium. Noesi will be making his fourth Cactus League appearance and second start, having given up 11 hits and eight runs (six earned) in 3.2 innings.
Noesi is a long shot for the rotation this spring after a bad 2012 season. He’s expected to throw two innings, followed by veteran right-hander Kameron Loe, who is competing for a bullpen role as a non-roster invite.
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, second baseman Dustin Ackley and shortstop Brendan Ryan are expected back after getting Thursday’s split-squad day off.