For the first time since then-manager John McLaren tabbed Erik Bedard for the first game of 2008, the Mariners will have a different Opening Day starter than Felix Hernandez when they kick off their season on March 20 against the A’s in Japan.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales, who had a breakout campaign last year in his first full season in the rotation, will be first up on the hill in the Tokyo Dome in the Opening Series, manager Scott Servais announced Saturday.
“Certainly respect,” Servais said of Hernandez’s Opening Day streak. “It was a tremendous run, and he’s done awesome things. I just think where we’re at right now organizationally and where he’s at, he wants to have a big year and this does give him more time to prepare for his first regular-season start. But that doesn’t make it any easier. But again, we try to take as much of the emotion out of it as you can and do what’s best for our ballclub.”
Yusei Kikuchi, the Mariners’ prize Japanese free agent, will pitch the second game against Oakland on March 21. Both games will be at 2:35 a.m. PT, with the Mariners then returning to Seattle to play a pair of exhibition games against the Padres at newly named T-Mobile Park before resuming regular-season play with their home opener against the Red Sox on March 28.