Are red flags raised with Mariners’ Felix Hernandez sent to DL?

Jun 1, 2016, 11:37 AM | Updated: 12:02 pm

The Mariners called up pitcher James Paxton from Triple-A on Wednesday to make a spot start for Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right calf strain. King Felix has pitched more than 200 innings since 2008, so it’s a rarity any time he misses a start.

Shannon Drayer reported Tuesday that there did not appear to be a serious issue with Hernandez, who went about his normal routine Tuesday morning.

ESPN MLB Insider Jayson Stark told “Brock and Salk” Wednesday morning, before the DL announcement was made, that while he wouldn’t use the word “worried” to describe his feelings on the situation, whenever Hernandez misses a start it’s worth keeping on an eye on.

“If he’s going to skip a start or miss a start, or have a start pushed back, I think that always raises red flags,” he said. “The velocity is a concern. Felix has evolved so much in what he does and how he does it that I think he is one of those guys I think you have a lot of faith in. But he’s also somebody who is different than virtually every other pitcher in the game because he never misses a start. He never goes on the DL. There is never anything seriously wrong with him, so if this is a sign that there is an issue then, hey, I’d be worried about that. But if it’s just he needs a breather, I’m OK with it.”

Hernandez had his worst start of the season on May 27 against Minnesota, when he allowed six earned runs over six innings. He’d pitched six shutout innings in his previous start against the Reds.

The 30-year-old former Cy Young winner is 4-4 in 2016 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts. He’s posted 53 strikeouts compared to 26 walks in 63 innings. There has been a dip in velocity on Hernandez’s fastball this season, down to the low-90s compared to the mid-to-upper 90s he’s shown throughout his career.

Stark says the lack of power has changed Hernandez’s approach on the mound.

“He’s a guy who has got a lot less margin for error now than he used to have because he can’t dominate you with power the way he did when he was younger,” he said. “But just his intelligence, his energy, his feel for what he’s doing out there has enabled him to overcome it and still be great – maybe not by his own standards, but by the standards of most pitchers in the game. And so unless there is something that would say to me that he can’t be that, I’m willing to forgive a bad start here and there.”

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