For the first time since 2008, Felix Hernandez will not start a season opener for the Seattle Mariners.
Mariners manager Scott Servais announced that Marco Gonzales will get the Opening Day nod for Seattle in Japan’s Tokyo Dome on March 20 against Oakland. Gonzales will be just the second Mariner pitcher to start not named Felix Hernandez since 2007. The other was Erik Bedard in 2008.
Servais also revealed Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in game two vs. the A’s. Kikuchi will be the first Japanese-born player to make his Major League debut in Japan, according to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
The Oakland Athletics also announced their starters. Opposing Gonzales will be Mike Fiers, who the A’s acquired in a trade last August. In game two, manager Bob Melvin sends offseason signee Marco Estrada against Kikuchi.
After the quick two-game series in Japan, the Mariners and A’s return to exhibition games stateside before Opening Day in the United States. Seattle’s home opener is March 28 vs. the defending World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox.
Hernandez’s streak of consecutive Opening Day starts will be snapped at 10, which leaves him tied for fourth all-time. Jack Morris atop the list at 14 straight Opening Day starts, while Tom Seaver and Robin Roberts are tied for second with 12.
With last year’s start, Hernandez became the seventh pitcher in MLB history to start 10 consecutive Opening Day games.