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Salk: What about not starting Opening Day upsets Mariners’ Félix Hernández?

Mariners right-hander Félix Hernández hasn't posted an ERA under 4.46 since 2015. (Getty)

We know that Félix Hernández won’t be starting for the Mariners on Opening Day, ending a team-record 10-year streak for the one-time Cy Young Award winner. We also know that he replied “Yeah” when asked if he was upset that he won’t be on the mound for Game 1 of 162 against the A’s on March 20 in Japan.

What we don’t know, however, is what exactly about the situation has made Hernández upset.

Mike Salk of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk delved into that topic on Monday morning, and there is only rational explanation for Hernández’s response that he can come up with.

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“There’s no way he thinks he deserves to be the Opening Day starter for the Mariners,” Salk said. “He’s been awful. He’s been really bad for two years, he hasn’t been good for three, and he’s not been good in any way this spring. So when he’s asked about not starting Opening Day, all I can assume is when he says he’s upset, he’s upset at himself for not performing better.”

Hernández, who will turn 33 in April, is a six-time All-Star who has spent his entire career to this point with the Mariners. The 2019 season is his last under contract, however, and it’s been a bumpy last few years for the veteran right-hander. His ERA has been 4.46 or higher each of the last three seasons (including a career-worst 5.55 in 2018), he has struggled with injuries over that same period of time, and in spring training he has allowed 13 runs over 7 1/3 innings for a 15.95 ERA.

Add all of that up, and it doesn’t make sense to Salk that Hernández can be upset with anybody other than himself.

“I have to imagine that his reaction was, I’m so embarrassed, I’m so disappointed in myself,” Salk said. “‘I was one of the most talented pitchers of all-time and for going on three or four years now I haven’t lived up to my own personal standard, let alone the standard anybody else has for me, and so I’m sad. I’m upset. I’m embarrassed.’ And by the way, I wouldn’t blame him. He’s a competitor, he expects the most of himself, and he clearly hasn’t delivered that.”

Salk said that Hernández could also be disappointed in himself for not doing more to adapt on the mound as his natural talents have faded in his 30s.

“Maybe he’s embarrassed that he hasn’t worked harder. Maybe he’s embarrassed that he hasn’t taken any of the team’s suggestions over the years. Maybe he’s embarrassed that he’s ignored every bit of data that they’ve tried to show him. Maybe he’s sad or upset or embarrassed that Scott Servais, he never gave him a shot as the manager when he first got here four years ago. Maybe he’s upset about all of those things. And I wouldn’t blame him, because I’m upset at him for all of those things.

“If he and I are on the same page, I think that makes sense. I think most of us are upset that he’s no longer ‘The King,’ and if he’s also upset that he’s no longer ‘The King’ then he’s right there in line with us.”

And if Hernández is upset with anybody other than himself?

“If it is as you guys have suggested,” Salk said to the other members of his show, “that he’s mad at Scott Servais, (general manager) Jerry Dipoto, this organization or anybody else other than himself, well, that’s crazy. He’s been bad. There’s no way he should be starting Opening Day, he’s done absolutely zero in the last three years to deserve that, so I have to assume that he’s just mad at himself.”

You can hear the full segment from Brock and Salk on Hernández in this podcast from Monday’s show.

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