It won't be under the circumstances Justin Grimm had initially envisioned this spring, but the 24-year-old will make his season debut nonetheless on Thursday night as the Rangers open a four-game set against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in his 2013 Safeco Field debut.
Grimm will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to fill in for scheduled starter Matt Harrison, who was headed to the disabled list with a stiff lower back. Instead of making his scheduled Wednesday start in the Minors, Grimm will now square off with Hernandez as the Rangers look for their seventh win in nine games.
The Rangers' No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com, Grimm entered Spring Training in a battle for Texas' final rotation spot. However, he started the season in Triple-A after being edged out by fellow rookie Nick Tepesch.
Now, two days after Tepesch allowed just one run over 7 1/3 innings en route to winning his Major League debut, Grimm will take his shot.
"I just expect him to come and keep us in the ballgame," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's a strike-thrower, and he understands how to use those strikes. It doesn't have to be a no-hitter, a perfect game, none of that. Just keep us around."
It won't be an easy task, considering he's going against a pitcher who has thrown a perfect game and will be going for his 100th career victory in Hernandez.
The Mariners' ace came up just short of the milestone in his last outing, dropping a 4-3 decision against the White Sox on Saturday. Hernandez allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings, falling far short of his stellar Opening Day outing in which he tossed 7 2/3-shutout innings against the Athletics.
Safeco Field will be a sea of bright yellow for Hernandez's first home start of 2013. The Mariners are giving away King Felix T-shirts to the first 25,000 fans at the ballpark.
"I'm just going to go out and do the best I can for them," Hernandez said of the fans. "I love that kind of thing, people in the stands keeping track of the strikeouts, yelling and screaming the whole time. It's awesome."
The Mariners have dropped four of their last five games, including two straight at home against the Astros.
Mariners: Morse to return to lineup
After getting his first rest of the season on Wednesday, Mariners outfielder Michael Morse is expected to return to the lineup against Texas.
Manager Eric Wedge gave Morse the breather because the Mariners begin the season with games on 14 consecutive days.
"He needs a day off," Wedge said. "You're not going to open up and have him play 14 days in a row. It's not right. It's not fair. Ultimately, you're going to put him in harm's way."
Morse's six home runs are tied with Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) and Jim Presley (1985) for the most by a Seattle player in the first nine games of the season.
Rangers: Harrison headed to 15-day DL
Harrison revealed on Wednesday he had been trying to pitch through a stiff lower back for at least the last two weeks.
The left-hander was diagnosed with an inflamed nerve in his lower back and underwent an epidural injection on Sunday. As for his stint on the disabled list, the move will be retroactive to his last start, on Saturday against the Angels.
"We're just trying to get [Harrison] right," Washington said. "When he comes back, we'll have him for the rest of the year."
Harrison went 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in his first two starts.
• Hernandez has faced the Rangers more than any other team throughout his career, totaling a 12-16 record to go along with a 3.76 ERA over 34 starts.
• The Mariners have hit 14 homers in their first 10 games. The only games Seattle went without a homer came in the season opener at Oakland and the home opener against Houston.