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LAA@SEA: Felix strikes out seven over eight frames

It's a new year, but the same story for Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.

The 27-year-old has allowed just nine runs in 42 2/3 innings this season, yet Seattle has lost three of the six games he's started.

After scoring just 3.52 runs per Hernandez start last season, providing him with the fifth lowest run support for a qualified starter in the Majors, the Mariners are scoring even less for their ace this year, averaging 3.17 runs per start.

Following their second day off this season on Thursday, the Mariners will try to back their No. 1 starter on Friday as they begin a three-game series in Toronto.

"These guys need it," manager Eric Wedge said of the day off. "They've fought through it, in tough fashion ... and now we are most definitely headed in the right direction.

"Now we are going to have some sensible time off, instead of the ridiculous time we didn't have off this past month."

Hernandez is 3-4 in his career vs. the Blue Jays and his 5.13 ERA is his highest against any opponent he has faced more than once.

The Blue Jays, without injured shortstop Jose Reyes, have struggled to find their groove.

As of Thursday, their offense ranked 28th in the Majors with a .231 batting average while their pitching staff was 27th in the big leagues with a 4.52 ERA.

"It's a tough division," said Mark DeRosa, who called a team meeting Sunday in New York to try to spark the clubhouse. "It's a tough AL East division, but there's no reason we can't get as hot as cold as we've been."

Josh Johnson was originally slated to start Friday's game, but he landed on the 15-day disabled with triceps inflammation. Now, former No. 1 starter Ricky Romero will be recalled from Class A Dunedin to make the start.

Romero makes his return to Toronto much sooner than expected after he was optioned to the Minors following a frustrating Spring Training.

Altering his mechanics down in the Minors, Romero is now pitching with a more direct line to the plate. The club has also changed his delivery so that Romero no longer brings his hands above his head, hoping he'll stop throwing across his body as much as he did before.

"If we didn't feel good about it, and he didn't feel good about it, he wouldn't be coming here," manager John Gibbons said. "He's been around the league a while. He's had a lot of success here. It's not like he's battling that, being a greenhorn."

He made just one official appearance for Dunedin on Saturday and allowed just one run over seven strong innings of work while hitting 93 mph on the radar gun.

Mariners: No sign of injury for the hot-swinging Morse
Michael Morse has been playing with three non-displaced fractures in his right pinky finger, but that hasn't seemed to alter his approach at the plate.

Morse said it's affected him more when throwing. He hit his team-leading ninth home run in Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Orioles.

"He's had to fight through it, but he's headed to the end of it, I think," Wedge said. "He's obviously been noticeably better."

Blue Jays: Gibbons trying to settle on order
After constant lineup changes the first month of the season, Gibbons is hoping to settle on a set batting order soon.

Gibbons has used 26 different lineups through 29 games this season. Many of those changes have come with the injuries to Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista. However, Gibbons is also trying to find the right mix for a struggling offense.

In Thursday night's game, Adam Lind returned to the No. 2 hole, something Gibbons hopes to stick with for the foreseeable future.

"I've been juggling it a lot more than I ever wanted to," Gibbons said. "I like what Lindy's doing right now. Move J.P. [Arencibia] back into that fifth slot, now you've got Bautista, [Edwin] Encarnacion and him.

Worth noting
• The Mariners haven't swept a three-game series in Toronto since their American League-record 116-win season in 2001.

• Hisashi Iwakuma's blister on a finger on his pitching hand has healed well enough that he will take his regular turn Saturday.

• Encarnacion is batting .299 (20-for-67) with eight home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 19 games. Comments