SEA@SD: Felix fans nine through six shutout frames

OAKLAND -- When Mariners ace Felix Hernandez makes his sixth Opening Day start Monday night against the A's, he'll be just the third Major League pitcher since 1920 to make that many Opening Day debuts before the age of 27.

But, no, the honor has not worn off on the 26-year-old Venezuelan.

"No, man," Hernandez said Sunday, standing outside the visiting clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum. "It's always special. Not just for me, but for all the guys. It's pretty special."

Hernandez, who turns 27 on April 8, will join Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden as the only hurlers with six Opening Day starts at that age.

Only nine other active pitchers have even made six Opening Day starts in their entire careers.

Hernandez is just eager to get going again on a new season, his ninth with the Mariners.

"Finally, Spring Training is over," Hernandez said with a laugh. "It was a long one. I'm very excited. It's another season. We are a different team. And that's why I'm pretty excited."

Hernandez knows his club is flying under the radar. After going 75-87 last year, the Mariners again are being picked to finish behind the Rangers, Angels and A's in the new five-team American League West by most experts. But the club has unveiled a much better offense this spring with some veteran additions, and Hernandez is anxious to see how things play out.

"We are just kind of an underdog," he said. "They aren't thinking about us at all. We just have to do what we need to do."

Worth noting

• Veteran right-hander Jeremy Bonderman has reported to the Mariners' Minor League camp and will continue his comeback with Triple-A Tacoma. Bonderman, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2010 while with the Tigers, competed for a starting job this spring before being reassigned to the Minor League camp on Wednesday.

The Mariners gave him several days to decide whether to retire or continue his comeback attempt. Bonderman underwent Tommy John surgery last April and previously dealt with shoulder and arm problems after eight seasons with the Tigers.

• Three Mariners will be participating in their first Opening Day in the Majors: right-handed relievers Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor and starter Brandon Maurer, who will make his debut Thursday.

• The Mariners are 21-15 in season openers and have won a club-record six in a row, including the last three against the A's in Oakland.

• Fans in Seattle can watch Monday's opener from Oakland on the new video screen at Safeco Field, with gates opening at 6 p.m. PT and free parking and admittance. More than 20,000 fans registered in advance and received a voucher for a free "True to the Blue" T-shirt. The T-shirt offer has now expired, but no registration is required for anyone who just wants to come and watch the game on Major League Baseball's largest video screen, in center field.

• Justin Smoak and Brendan Ryan are the only two position players still on the Mariners roster who were in the starting lineup on Opening Day two years ago.

Tickets still are available for the Mariners' home opener on Monday, April 8, against the Astros. Jamie Moyer will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for that 7:10 p.m. PT game, and new left-hander Joe Saunders is the likely starter for the Mariners if they remain on schedule after the initial seven-game road trip.