SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Felix Hernandez waited almost two weeks to get in a game for the Seattle Mariners. The Kansas City Royals went just as long without a loss.
Hernandez pitched two innings in his Cactus League debut and Stefen Romero had seven RBIs to help a Mariners split squad beat Kansas City 12-2 on Thursday, handing the Royals their first defeat this spring after 11 straight wins.
“Finally, I’m part of the Seattle Mariners,” Hernandez said. “I’m just kidding. I think it (went) better than my debut last year. I feel pretty good.”
The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner allowed one run and two hits. He struck out two and walked none in his first start since signing a $175 million, seven-year contract last month, the richest ever for a pitcher.
With spring training elongated because of the World Baseball Classic, the Mariners held Hernandez out of their first 12 games, knowing he still has ample time to get ready for the April 1 opener at Oakland.
The right-hander, who turns 27 next month, threw 14 pitches in the first inning and 19 in the second. He struck out Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas to end the first.
“I look strong from the windup,” Hernandez said. “From the stretch, I was too quick, opening too much. I’ve got to work on that in my bullpen. I was trying to get my work in.”
Romero homered twice and finished 4 for 5. He hit a grand slam in the fourth inning and a three-run shot in the ninth.
Casper Wells had a three-run drive in the eighth for the Mariners, who have 10 consecutive multihomer games and top the majors with 29 home runs this spring. Wells also doubled home a run in the third.
Hisashi Iwakuma allowed one hit in three scoreless innings for the victory.
Royals starter Ervin Santana struck out four and walked none in three innings. He allowed a run and three hits, throwing 30 of 42 pitches for strikes.
Hernandez had Lorenzo Cain down 0-2 in the count before he singled to center leading off the second. Kansas City rookie David Lough doubled to right to score Cain with one out.
“The double was a fastball in the middle,” Hernandez said.
Royals utility man Elliot Johnson has seen Hernandez at his best, last Aug. 15 against Tampa Bay.
“I was part of his perfect game last year, so he’s been sharper,” Johnson said. “His (velocity) wasn’t where he normally is and probably not as much bite on the breaking ball he threw me. He was not throwing his changeup with quite as much, intensity would probably be a good word to use. It was pretty noticeable the difference today and that day in August.
“Overall he’s still awesome. He was probably holding back a little bit. They gave him $175 million for a reason.”
Moustakas, who struck out in his only at-bat against Hernandez, was impressed.
“He was moving the ball in and out,” Moustakas said. “For his first time out in the spring, he looked really good.”
NOTES: Royals RF Jeff Francoeur (sore hip) was the DH and went 1 for 4. … Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen allowed a double to Brandon Wood in a scoreless sixth inning, striking out two. … Royals rookie LHP Donnie Joseph continued to impress with two more strikeouts. In four outings, he has allowed only a bunt single while striking out nine and walking none over four innings.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.