Felix Hernandez’s first start of 2018 was vintage King Felix. His second start, however, was worrisome.
The Mariners’ No. 1 starter was roughed up Wednesday by the San Francisco Giants, giving up eight runs on six hits and five walks, taking the loss after just four innings. It was almost the complete opposite of his dominant opening night performance in which he held the Cleveland Indians scoreless over 5 1/3 innings.
While Hernandez’s velocity was down in San Francisco, command was the real problem. Former Mariners pitcher and current team analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith doesn’t think it has anything to do with the 31 year old’s health, though.
“It was 100 percent mental,” Rowland-Smith said while guest hosting with Mike Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk Thursday. “It’s a little concerning in the short-term. All of the sudden, this is really the first time he’s coming off an offseason looking back at a 4.36 (ERA), 86 innings (in 2017). He’s never had that before, so that doubt is starting to creep in.”
That, Rowland-Smith said, resulted in the mechanical trouble that plagued Hernandez in San Francisco.
“You could see in the third, fourth, fifth inning, his mechanics were all over the place. When I say that, his timing was all over the place,” he said. “When you talk about mechanics, when you start slowing down and try to over-process pitch to pitch, your mechanics, you start to move from point A to point B down that mound slower, and that comes out in velocity.”
It’s something Rowland-Smith said that James Paxton also struggled with for a time in 2017.
You can hear more of Rowland-Smith’s thoughts on Hernandez in the audio embedded above, or you can find podcasts of the full show at this link.