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M's play it safe, delay Hernandez's return to rotation

SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez is going to have to wait at least
one more turn to get back into the Mariners' rotation. Jeff Weaver
will gladly wait one more day to stay in it.

Seattle manager Mike Hargrove announced Wednesday that
Hernandez, the Mariners' ace who began this season nearly perfect
before straining his forearm on April 18, will not start in Yankee
Stadium on Friday as anticipated. The 21-year-old is now
tentatively scheduled to pitch on May 9 at Detroit, following arm
discomfort from a bullpen session that has since subsided.

"We'd rather be safe than sorry with him," Hargrove said.
"When we get to the ninth, and if Felix needs a few more days,
we'll give him [that]."

Cha Seung Baek, who was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma to replace
Hernandez when he went on the 15-day disabled list, will start
Friday in New York.

Weaver, 0-4 with an 18.26 ERA, will start against his former
Yankees on Saturday on an extra day of rest -- after a deep
discussion between last fall's World Series-clinching starter and
Mariners decision makers on what to do next with him.

Hernandez felt some discomfort during a bullpen session last
weekend. But he said he felt fine after throwing all his pitches
during another bullpen session, including the slider that
originally pained him most.

Hargrove said Hernandez will throw one more bullpen session and
then a simulated game before his tentative start against the
Tigers.

"I feel fine," Hernandez said. "I want to pitch."

He had allowed four hits in 17 scoreless innings -- including a
one-hitter at Boston -- before he left a start last month against
Minnesota after just one-third of an inning. He allowed three runs,
walked two and threw a wild pitch before he summoned trainers to
the mound.

Meanwhile, Weaver will stay in the rotation for at least one
more turn. The Mariners could have skipped him because of an off
day.

He allowed six runs and seven hits while getting just one out
Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. Weaver has failed to pitch
beyond the third inning in three of his four starts with the
Mariners, who signed him last winter as a free agent from St. Louis
for one year and $8,325,000.

Weaver has given up 23 earned runs and 31 hits in 11 1/3
innings. His worst April had been in 2000 with Detroit, when he was
0-3 with a 6.00 ERA.

Now, he gets to a chance at redemption in front of the same fans
who often vilified him during his usually dreadful 2002 and '03
season with the Yankees.

"It's where his turn starts. And there aren't a whole lot of
easy touches in this league," Hargrove said.

Hargrove said the Mariners met with Weaver this week and "threw
a lot of things at him. He threw a lot of things at us, different
things he can do. We'll see."

Were some of the Mariners "things" demotion to the bullpen or
even designation for assignment, as the Los Angeles Angels did to
Weaver last summer after Weaver struggled for months?

"All options were discussed. It was real long," Hargrove said
of the talk. "We didn't just flip a coin."