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Mariners push RHP Felix Hernandez back to series opener against AL West-leading Oakland

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CHICAGO - The Seattle Mariners pushed Felix Hernandez's next start back a day so they can put their ace on the mound for the opener of a big series against the Oakland Athletics.

Hernandez's next turn was slated for Thursday, but manager Lloyd McClendon said he wants his best pitcher going up against the AL West leaders. The move also provides extra rest for Hernandez, who has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the past six seasons.

"It made sense to make that adjustment," McClendon said before Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "It also gives him an extra day, so he can pitch on the sixth day. All the stars lined up, it just made sense."

McClendon said he isn't sure yet who will start Thursday against Minnesota.

Hernandez is off to one of the best starts of his accomplished career, making the All-Star team for the fifth time when the rosters were announced Sunday night. He is 10-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 19 starts this year.

"It's always exciting," he said. "You're part of the All-Star game, so it's exciting. You're never going to forget about that. It's always fun."

Hernandez pitched eight solid innings in Seattle's 3-2 victory over Chicago on Saturday. The right-hander, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2010, is 7-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his past 11 starts.

Hernandez, who has gone at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past 10 outings, is a prime candidate to make his first All-Star start in the July 15 game at Minnesota.

"That's not my decision," Hernandez said. "If they say yes, I would."

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