PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Smoak wasn't in the lineup for the Mariners' first Cactus League game on Friday, but the big first baseman said he's healthy and eager to get started.
Manager Eric Wedge held several starters back in the charity game against the Padres, including Smoak, center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, second baseman Dustin Ackley and shortstop Brendan Ryan.
Ackley and Ryan aren't going to play the first three or four games, as Wedge wants to bring them along slowly as they return from offseason surgeries. Gutierrez and Smoak likely will be in action this weekend as the Mariners and Padres square off Saturday and Sunday as well.
"I'm ready to get going," Smoak said. "It seems really early, like we just got here yesterday and we're already playing games, but other than that, I'm ready to go. Last year, we needed to play games early, because we were going to Japan. This time we're here early and we've still got a month left, so we've got a lot of time."
Smoak said he's working hard to stay with the approach that worked so well at the end of last season, when he hit .341 with five home runs in the final 27 games.
"With me, it's just getting locked in and trying to stay up the middle and the other way right now," Smoak said. "If I get the pitch middle in, I can do something with it, but you try not to do too much early on and just try to hit it where it's pitched.
"You want to come out the first day of batting practice and just try to launch balls, especially in Arizona, but I've come to find out I don't have to try to launch balls. That was my biggest problem the last couple years, trying to hit homers. Now it's just more about trying to stay within myself and just hit it where it's pitched. If you get good swings, you're going to drive the ball."
Felix being eased into Spring Training routine
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners are in no rush to get Felix Hernandez throwing this spring, but rest assured, he'll be geared up by the time the regular season opener rolls around on April 1 in Oakland.
While the rest of the Mariners' pitchers have thrown at least two bullpen sessions and two batting practices in preparation for the start of Cactus League play, Hernandez has tossed just one 10-minute bullpen session and has nothing scheduled for the weekend.
The plan going forward?
"He has a couple more [bullpen session], he'll throw a batting practice and then either another batting practice or a simulated type of situation," pitching coach Carl Willis said Friday. "Then we'll get him going. The plan is to get him up to 95 pitches or so coming out of camp, and he'll be able to go 105 that first start."
That means Hernandez won't get into Cactus League play until the first week of March at least. But the Mariners know what the 26-year-old can do and are merely pacing him to be ready when the games count.
"It's just in respect to the length of the season and his workload the past three years," Willis said. "We're here a long time. There's no reason to start him as early as everyone else, because we know where he's going to pitch his first game."
Yes, Hernandez can safely be penciled in as the Opening Day starter.
"You can ink that one in," Willis said with a laugh.
Fighting for roster spot, Wells goes deep
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Casper Wells has his work cut out this spring finding a spot in the Mariners' outfield, but the 28-year-old made a nice early statement with a two-run blast deep over the left-field fence in the ninth inning of Friday's 9-3 loss to the Padres in their Cactus League opener.
Wells is fighting for a roster spot after Seattle added Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay to the outfield mix over the offseason, but Wells provided one of the few offensive highlights as the Mariners recorded just five hits against five San Diego hurlers.
"Casper really hit that ball," said manager Eric Wedge. "He has a lot of raw power. When he hits the ball, he hits it. His swing looks a little shorter. I felt he made some adjustments at the end of last year, and early on, he's definitely brought that into the spring."
Wells' shot came off Padres right-hander Brandon Kloess, a 28-year-old who split time last year between Double-A and Triple-A.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder Wells had 10 home runs last year in 285 at-bats while hitting .228. He went 1-for-2 on Friday, striking out in his first at-bat.
The Mariners fell behind early after a rough outing for starter Hector Noesi, who gave up six runs (four earned) on four hits and four walks in just two-thirds of an inning.
"He was up a little bit," Wedge said. "First time out, the ball was coming out of this hand good, but he was just cutting it off a little as the inning wore on. When you do that, you don't have the same life. He was just a little bit up today, but he said he felt good, so hopefully he can work off that and come back and be a little stronger next time."
• Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders will throw their second batting practice sessions on Saturday, and they will then take two to three days off before starting Cactus League games, according to Willis. Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman, both coming off arm issues, threw their second batting practices on Friday and will move into the Cactus League rotation at the start of the coming week.
• Right-hander Brandon Maurer, who is ranked as the Mariners' 10th top prospect, has been held out the past two days after taking a line drive off his shin during batting practice earlier this week.
"He was fine and threw his second BP with no problem," Willis said, "but we're going to have a bullpen [session] with him [Saturday] and he'll pitch on Monday. It'll just allow that to calm down a little. No reason to rush him out there."
• Jack Donahue, a 17-year-old senior at Juanita High School in Kirkland, Wash., attended Friday's workout as a Make-A-Wish participant. After meeting many of the Mariners players -- including Hernandez - Donahue got to hang out with Kyle Seager in the clubhouse at a locker with his name on it as the players prepared for the afternoon's game with the Padres.