As disappointing as Felix Hernandez’s 13th season with the Mariners has been, the answer “no” came quickly when asked if he was ready to see it come to an end.
Felix would rather be pitching into October, but once more, that is not part of the plan. Had he been able to start 30 games as he had all but one complete season prior, perhaps the story could have been different. As it is, this year will be chalked up as a learning experience.
“Actually I learned not to get hurt,” Felix said matter-of-factly. “To stay healthy all year. It was tough. What I learned is when you are off with your mechanics it is going to be tough to pitch. When you are on, you can do good things.”
Shoulder problems can lead to bad mechanics, and bad mechanics can lead to shoulder problems. He will address both in the offseason.
“I’m just going to work on my stuff, a lot of exercises for my shoulder, a lot of cardio and all that stuff and just be ready for next year,” he said.
His offseason plan is being formulated. There is a belief that he perhaps did too much with his upper body away from the team last winter, and that led to less flexibility.
“My offseason work, it did pay off,” he said. “I do feel really good. The shoulder problems, it happens. It’s baseball, I am not a kid anymore. I just have to find a different routine. Not as much upper body, not too much weight.”
He is not a kid anymore and that is not something that has not been easy for Felix to admit, in the weight room or on the mound. He can no longer blow opposing hitters away or survive on stuff alone. It is clear he still has weapons though, and in his better outings in 2017 use of those weapons resulted in ground ball outs rather than strikeouts. It has been a hard sell, but he is getting there.
“I love to strike out people. I’m trying to get to 3000,” he said with a hearty laugh. “But I am going to keep trying and strikeout people. But if they get contact? They are going to swing at first pitch, they know. They know me. They know they have no chance if they get to two strikes so they are going to try to swing early. If I have got that sinker working, it’s going to get quick outs.”
Don’t call it a reinvention. Felix is adamant he is still Felix.
“I am just trying to be myself,” he said. “What I used to be two years ago, with the same mechanics. That is going to be a big focus.”
The biggest change for his offseason routine will come on the home front. As it does with many ball players, school will determine the schedule. His two young children, who had been previously home schooled, are now enrolled in elementary school in Miami where Felix will head to after Sunday’s season finale. In years past he has taken his family on grand trips to Europe, Africa and the Maldives. This year, the adventures will be a little bit different.
“School first,” said Felix. “I’m going to take them to school, I’m going to pick ’em up, it’s going to be early wake up for me. It’s going to be different. The kids are excited. It’s going to be a challenge because I am not a morning person.”
It will indeed be a very different offseason for Felix Hernandez, but one that he is looking forward to.