"It all started over here. Right here," Hernandez said on Tuesday from the first locker on the left through the visitors' clubhouse doors. "It's fun to be here."
Now a veteran, an American League Cy Young Award winner and a two-time All-Star, the right-hander gets the ball on Wednesday, when the Mariners face the Tigers in the second game of a three-game set. He'll be opposed by lefty Adam Wilk.
Hernandez didn't get the win to show for it, but he pitched his best game of the season his last time out, against Cleveland. On Wednesday he'll be looking to build on those eight shutout innings.
"[I'll be] trying to have a good game and pitch to my strengths, and I'll be OK," Hernandez said of facing the powerful Tigers lineup. "I know they're pretty good hitters, but I've just got to throw my pitches."
The Tigers have won only one of their last nine matchups against Hernandez, and he took a no-decision in that game after pitching seven innings of one-run ball. They've scored more than three earned runs in a game off him only once, in 2007, and the Mariners still won that one.
"He's obviously one of the best in the business," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Not only does he have excellent stuff, he's got a good feel for what to do with it. I'm sure he's figured out a way to attack the hitters a little bit more. He still relies on good stuff, but he's not just some guy who rears back and throws it. He knows what he's doing. He's really good."
Had former Mariner Doug Fister not gone down with a muscle strain in his rib cage, it's likely Hernandez would be making the start against his ex-teammate. But with Fister on the disabled list, Wilk gets the call for the Tigers.
Wilk is 0-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his two starts this season. And although he hasn't given the Tigers much length in regard to innings pitched per game, he's allowed just four earned runs in those two starts.
Mariners: Homecoming for Furbush and Wells
Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells made their first return to Detroit after being traded to Seattle last year at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in the deal that sent Fister to Detroit.
Both Wells and Furbush were drafted by the Tigers, and they spent all their time in the Detroit system before being dealt.
"This is where it all started for me," Furbush said. "It's kind of hard to explain, but it's pretty cool being back, for sure."
The Mariners have posted 10 quality starts this season, four fewer than the Rangers, who lead the league.
With Tuesday's win, Seattle improved from a season-high three games below .500.
Tigers: Timetable unclear for Fister
When Fister will return remains uncertain, though he appears ready to throw again.
"He came in [on Monday], got treated, did some really tough exercise and passed that with flying colors," Leyland said. "I really don't have any timetable."
Miguel Cabrera's home run on Tuesday gave him 997 career RBIs. With three more, he will become the 21st active player with at least 1,000.
Tigers relievers have a 6-1 mark this season.
Cabrera is hitting .355 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 38 games against the Mariners.
Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has hit safely in eight straight games against the Tigers. He homered in four of his six games against Detroit in 2011.