Pitching in his first game since signing a $175 million contract extension, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez gave up one run in two innings of work Thursday against the Royals and pronounced himself stronger than a year ago as he begins his ninth Major League season.

Hernandez, 26, has been on a slower pace this spring compared to the other Seattle pitchers, but the timeframe is the same one used to get him ready for Opening Day starts in previous years.

He threw 33 pitches in Thursday's 12-2 win over the Royals, striking out two and giving up two hits with no walks.

"Finally, huh? Now I'm part of the Seattle Mariners," Hernandez said with a laugh after getting in his first official work of the spring. "I think it was a better debut than last year. I felt pretty good."

Pitching coach Carl Willis said all went perfectly as the club wanted to keep its ace under 40 pitches in his first outing.

"It's nice to see him get back out there and compete again," said Willis. "He felt great. I thought his fastball was good, his changeup was right there as it always is and he threw some good sliders as well. Most importantly, he felt good, so we'll see him again in five days."

Hernandez was throwing his fastball in the 91-92 mph range, according to MLB.com's Gameday readings, and worked in about five or six changeups as well as a few sliders.

"I felt strong from the windup," he said. "From the stretch, I was a little too quick. I'm trying to stay back on my back leg, but today I was opening up a little too much. But I got my work in and now I can work on that in my next bullpen."