For the first time since May 27, the Mariners have a Happy Felix Day to declare. And, of course, the King’s court will be in session at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday when the Mariners conclude their series against the Chicago White Sox.
Ace right-hander Felix Hernandez will be officially activated from the disabled list prior to the game after the Mariners make a corresponding space-clearing roster move.
“I’m ready, man,” Hernandez said. “I was going crazy (in the early) weeks when I wasn’t with the team (on the road). It was the worst time of my career. But I’m good now.”
Hernandez was diagnosed with a strained right calf muscle following his May 27 start against the Minnesota Twins. Coincidence or not, the Mariners were 28-19 through Hernandez’s last start and held a 1 1/2-game lead atop the American League West division standings.
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They entered Tuesday’s game against Chicago at 47-46 and trailing first-place Texas by 7 1/2 games. Hernandez was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts prior to his injury.
It’s no surprise, but manager Scott Servais said Hernandez will be monitored more closely than usual Wednesday in his first major-league appearance in 54 days.
“We’ll judge how the ball is coming out of his hand,” Servais said, “and how he’s feeling, as we go along. I’d love to get six innings out of him, but we’ll see how the command is and how he’s moving through the game.”
Servais also confirmed plans to keep Hernandez on a regular five-day cycle as the Mariners move through a stretch that includes three open dates in an eight-day span prior to the end of the month.
O’Malley at short – Utilityman Shawn O’Malley started at shortstop Tuesday for the third time in four games when the Mariners chose to give Ketel Marte another day to recover from a viral infection.
“It’s better than we originally thought,” Servais said. “He had a high fever (Monday) night, and it’s come down a little bit today. We’ve got to get him 100 percent. It’s nothing to do with the ankle. He’s just under the weather.”
Marte suffered a sprained right ankle Friday against Houston on a slide into third base, which forced his removal from the game and kept him on the bench Saturday. But he played all nine innings in Sunday’s loss to the Astros.
The viral infection surfaced prior to Monday’s series opener against the White Sox and effectively leaves the Mariners without a backup utility infielder. Not counting Marte, their bench consisted of Jesus Sucre, Adam Lind and Seth Smith.
Point to note: The Mariners, through Monday, were 7-0 when O’Malley started at shortstop.
Test for Furbush – Left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush is scheduled to pitch Wednesday and Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma in what amounts to the next test in his recovery from biceps tendinitis in his shoulder, which has sidelined him for more than a year.
The Mariners want to see whether Furbush can pitch back-to-back games without any decline in effectiveness — or suffering any further setbacks in his long recovery program.
Furbush, 30, has made four appearances since beginning his rehab assignment July 8.
Root muscle –
Telecasts of Mariners games by Root Sports Northwest rank as the No. 1 prime-time program in their home market since the start of the season, according to Forbes magazine.
Nine other clubs also rank No. 1 in their market.
Forbes reports the Mariners are drawing a 6.22 rating for prime-time games, which translates to an average of 110,000 households per game.
In terms of ratings, the Mariners rank seventh among the 30 clubs. Kansas City is first with a 13.26 rating.
In terms of households, the Mariners rank ninth. The New York Mets lead at 228,000.
Walk-off rarity – Adam Lind is only the second player in major-league history to hit two walk-off homers with his club trailing by two runs in the same year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The other is Boston designated hitter David Ortiz in 2006.
Lind hit a three-run clincher Monday against White Sox closer David Robertson, which capped a four-run ninth inning in a 4-3 victory.
On tap – The Mariners and White Sox conclude their three-game series at 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hernandez (4-4, 2.86 ERA) will face Chicago right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 5.40).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners