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Outlook: Iwakuma bolsters Mariners' starting rotation

Things sure have changed for Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma in the span of a year.

Pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever for the first half of his initial season in the Majors, Iwakuma comes into this season far more prepared and confident as Seattle's No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez.

"Last year was definitely exciting for myself, being here for the first time and everything being new," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "This year there's more just expectation that comes along with following Felix."

He'll get the chance to show just how far he's come when the Mariners square off against the Athletics in Oakland on Tuesday.

The Japanese right-hander went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts in the second half of the 2012 season, finishing the year with a 9-5 record and 3.16 ERA.

"There is definitely an advantage compared to last year," Iwakuma said. "I had no information then, just what we had in our reports. So there's a different comfort level that I'm in right now. The only thing I can say is that I've never pitched here at this ballpark, so that's something new for me. But I'm not looking at it in any different way. It's just a different ballpark that I get to pitch in."

Meanwhile, A's right-hander Jarrod Parker is hoping to start the 2013 season the way he finished his last.

Ending the 2012 season with a four-game win streak, the longest of his career, Parker is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners.

Parker, who made the Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, is coming off a rookie campaign in which he went 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA and finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Mariners: Ackley in 8th spot for opener
• Thanks to the addition of key veterans and young core hitters, second baseman Dustin Ackley was penciled into the eighth spot for Monday night's season opener against the A's.

Ackley, who hit .365 this spring, hit first or second almost all last season and was in the No. 2 spot between Chone Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki in last year's opener. However, manager Eric Wedge is now going with a healthy Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders in the top two spots, followed by new additions Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse.

"I think you look up and down our lineup, we've got guys that can hit about anywhere," Ackley said. "It's good to be in a lineup where guys are going to be on base when you get up to bat, especially from top to bottom. It's going to be fun to watch."

• The Mariners announced on Monday that the first 25,000 fans at Hernandez's Safeco Field season debut on April 11 against the Rangers will receive the free King Felix T-shirt and commemorative "K" card that normally are limited to 1,200 fans for the King's Court section down the left-field line at his starts.

A's: Jaso gets gift from Felix for catching perfect game
• Before former teammates John Jaso and Hernandez squared off against each other in Oakland on Monday, Hernandez sent over a Rolex wristwatch as a gift to Jaso after last year's perfect game.

"Getting to be a part of it is way bigger than this, but this is definitely a really nice gesture," Jaso said. "He really didn't have to. I was really just happy with being behind the plate. He came through."

Hernandez inscribed "Perfect Game" on the watch, along with the date -- "8/15/12" -- it was achieved against the Rays.

Worth noting
• After a 2-0 loss to the Mariners on Monday, the A's have now lost each of their past nine openers, the longest Opening Day losing streak in AL history.

• Monday marked Raul Ibanez's 15th Opening Day. Ibanez is the oldest member of the Mariners roster at 40, while reliever Carter Capps -- who turned 22 on Aug. 23 -- is the youngest player on the squad.

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