Forget that the Seattle Mariners have the longest drought without qualifying for the playoffs or that their general manager is not bored of making changes, the big question revolves around his ace.
Félix Hernández continues as the undisputed leader of the rotation, but the Venezuelan faces an unusual situation heading to his 13th season in the Major Leagues: doubts abound about his current level.
“It seems that way,” said Hernandez, who will turn 31 in April. “I do not understand why, I’m still here.”
The serpentineero comes from what was the worst year of his career. Hernandez missed six weeks last season with a right calf injury, the first time he’s been on the disabled list since 2008.
His 25 starts and 153 innings and a third pitched turned out to be the poorest figures since his debut in August 2005. More alarming was the decline in the speed of his straight, which averaged 90.54 miles per hour in 2016, Previous year he walked in the 92.1.
“I have to prove to people that they are wrong,” he said.
And to prove that his best years do not belong the past went to the gym to train thoroughly.
During the winter, “King Felix” advanced his fitness routine, adding 17 pounds of muscle. He also enjoyed his family by taking them on safari in South Africa.
“Felix looks very good,” said manager Scott Servais, confirming him as the opener for tenth opener in the opening game on April 3 in Houston. “It comes with everything.”
No more waiting
A rebound from Hernandez would be essential for a team that finished last season with a 86-75 mark, staying out of the playoffs very little.
Not that the Mariners are not trying, with an investment of 572 million assigned to the contracts of Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, the members of its core.
“I feel like we’re close,” said Canó, the second-ranked Dominican who comes from a season in which he set a personal top with his 39 home runs. “It’s 162 games and a lot of things can happen, sometimes you do not have to be the best team, everything can line up for you, we lost 30 games last year for a race, we are a hungry team to win, including myself. Prepared to play only 162 games, I’m getting ready to play in the playoffs. “