Read his lips: Felix Hernandez seriously sold on Seattle
Seattle's ace pitcher is leaner and appears in midseason form, but he's growing weary of repeating how happy he is as a Mariner.
Seattle Times staff reporter
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Felix Hernandez is unquestionably comfortable as a Mariner this spring.
He's an emerging leader in the clubhouse, at the center of the jokes and pranks that are a spring-training staple. It's a role he seems to have inherited from Ken Griffey Jr.
But ask how long he'll be wearing a Mariners uniform, and things get serious.
Hernandez, who will make his fourth spring start Wednesday, gets that question a lot. He says an interview rarely goes by when he isn't asked about his future and whether he really wants to stay in Seattle.
"They ask me if I want to go to New York or Boston, somewhere where they win more," he said Tuesday. "But we can win here, no doubt. We can win here."
Hernandez probably wouldn't be expected to say anything else at this point. After all, he's under contract through 2014. The five-year deal will pay him a total of $78 million.
Seattle baseball fans have had their hearts broken by stars looking for the first door out of town. Not Hernandez.
In a recent interview with the MLB Network, Hernandez told former Mariner Harold Reynolds to tell everyone he has no intention of going anywhere.
And Tuesday the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner said he should put up a banner saying "I'm not going anywhere" across the top of his locker.
Though Hernandez only will turn 26 on April 8, he has been with the Mariners almost 10 years. He signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2002, making Seattle the only organization he has known.
And he seems serious about staying.
"I like the fact that he gets in there and gets his work done and makes sure he does what he needs to do to get ready," said Kevin Millwood, a 14-year veteran in his first year with the Mariners. "That's all anybody cares about. You can have all the fun you want as long as you get your work done, and he does."
Hernandez, who will make his final appearance before starting the team's season opener against the Oakland A's in Tokyo on March 28, already appears to be in midseason form. He has allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings and has struck out 13, with one walk. In his last outing against the Brewers, he dominated a lineup of primarily non-regulars, allowing one hit and walking one in six scoreless innings.
"I'm close," Hernandez said, adding that he has been able to throw all his pitches this spring.
The first thing you notice about Seattle's ace this spring is that there's simply less of him. Though he's still listed at 230 pounds in the team's media guide, Hernandez says he lost 15 pounds during the offseason and now weighs 218.
He dropped the weight through improved workouts rather than diet changes.
Ask why he wanted to lose weight, and he smiles.
"To help my look," he replied.
There's also a difference on the field.
"I feel more athletic," he said. "I can get off the mound more quickly."
Eric Wedge has noticed a difference.
"He's in better shape," the Mariners manager said.
Good enough to move a little faster, but not to run out of town.
• The Mariners will have to cut their spring roster from 39 players to 30 by the time they leave for Japan on Thursday. With the injured Adam Moore and Franklin Gutierrez not going, the M's will have to leave seven others behind. The team will then have to declare a 25-man playing roster for the two regular-season games March 28-29.
• Millwood allowed just one run in five innings in Tuesday's win against the Reds in Goodyear, taking another big step toward earning a spot in the rotation. Hisashi Iwakuma, also competing for a spot, took over for Millwood and threw three scoreless innings. While Wedge said Iwakuma pitched in relief to get some work in, the manager acknowledged that the bullpen could be Iwakuma's home to start the season. "We're looking at everything right now," Wedge said.
• Kyle Seager had three doubles, continuing a recent hot streak and increasing his chances of making the roster. Munenori Kawasaki had three hits to improve to .367 and played well at shortstop and third. "He's done everything he could do to be on this ballclub," Wedge said of Kawasaki.
• Carlos Peguero, competing for a job in the outfield, had a two-run homer and four runs batted in.
• Gutierrez, out since Feb. 28 with a partial tear of his right pectoral muscle, said Tuesday he has swung a bat a few times without pain but has yet to attempt to throw, which will be the next step in his recovery. "I don't know when that will happen," he said. "I don't know when I am going to be playing. It just depends on how fast I recover."
• The Mariners conclude this portion of spring training with Wednesday's 1:05 p.m. game against the White Sox in Peoria.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.
|Kwsaki ss-3b||5||1||3||1||B.Phillips 2b||2||1||2||0|
|LRdrigz 2b-ss||2||0||2||1||Valaika 2b||2||0||2||0|
|BMiller ph-ss||1||0||0||0||D.Lohman pr||0||0||0||0|
|Carp lf||3||0||0||0||Cozart ss||2||0||1||1|
|MWilsn ph-lf||2||0||0||0||Janish ss||2||0||1||0|
|J.Montero c||4||2||1||0||Votto 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Seager 3b-2b||5||2||3||0||Cairo 1b||1||0||0||0|
|Liddi 1b||5||0||2||1||Rolen 3b||2||0||0||0|
|V.Ctrcala dh||3||2||1||1||Frazier 3b||2||0||1||0|
|Peguero rf||5||1||2||4||Bruce rf||3||0||0||0|
|C.Wells cf||3||0||0||0||Texeira p||0||0||0||0|
|Seattle||000 030 032||— 8||14||0|
|Cincinnati||000 100 000||— 1||9||1|
|Millwood W, 2-1||5||4||1||1||0||5|
|Francis L, 0-1||5||7||3||2||0||5|
Spring Training statistics
Minimum 10 at-bats; 4 innings pitched
|Felix's spring flings|
|Felix Hernandez has been sharp in three spring training games for the Mariners this month:|