SEATTLE MARINERS

Felix Hernandez is not fed up

Apr 18, 2011, 11:06 AM | Updated: 2:34 pm

In the past two days the “Felix may be getting fed up” and “Mariners may be forced to trade Felix” stories have been stirred up once again.

It had been quiet for all of about two weeks. I prefer not to address these stories every time they pop up because the story really doesn’t change much and it is not going to. The situation will continue to be there as long as the team struggles and despite the fact that Jack Zduriencik insists he will not trade Felix, clubs may still ask.

There are a couple of specific things however that I would like to address about the current rumblings. Buster Olney wrote the story on Sunday then again talked about it this morning on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio, which can be heard on 710 ESPN weekday mornings from 6-9. Olney was asked about the topic of the “Felix Hernandez Sweepstakes.”

“What is interesting is we saw (Zack) Greinke force his way out of Kansas City, not happy with the way the Royals were doing. He pitched indifferently,” Olney said. “I did hear from scouts and they said he (Hernandez) is distracted; they kind of wonder if he is getting fed up.”

The first thing I wanted to point out is Felix Hernandez is not Zack Greinke. Greinke’s relationship with the Royals was not what Felix’s is with the Mariners. I was told that there was almost a sense of relief that Greinke was gone and that part of the success they are experiencing now is because it is a team of 25, not 24 plus one. I am fairly certain this will never be said of Hernandez.

I value what scouts say and talk to them often for information, but they don’t always have the complete picture. I was at every game the scouts were at and I talked to Felix after each start and quite often in the days in between.

Was Felix distracted in his Opening Day start? No. How could he not be happy with that performance? In Texas he pitched well but his offense let him down. Against Toronto he struggled but we have seen him struggle in early games in the past. I talked with him and Carl Willis about the Toronto start and Felix said he brushed it off and Willis said it appeared that he bounced right back after that start.

What happened in Kansas City? The scouts said he looked distracted on the hill. I agree with them. I was even more concerned with what I saw after he was taken out of the game after only 90 pitches. Eric Wedge met him at his spot on the bench, put a hand on his shoulder and had a short conversation. Felix nodded, turned and tapped his catcher Chris Gimenez on the chest then sat down on the bench, where he remained for the next two innings.

Plays were not made behind him in that game and his offense as always was nonexistent. It was a winnable game for him. His stuff looked good and he only gave up two earned runs, but there he was on the bench after throwing only 90 pitches. Wedge said it was an opportunity to save some pitches and give him a little break after throwing over 100 in his first three starts. I am not sure I wanted to see him waste any more of his pitches on the effort we were seeing behind him.

Felix wasn’t alone in the dugout for long. Jason Vargas walked by and had words for him, then Erik Bedard sat down next to him and remained there until Felix headed into the training room. Were they commiserating about what they had to put up with in this team? Had Felix hit his breaking point?

No. I asked him in the clubhouse after the game what was going through his head while he was sitting in the dugout for the two innings after he was removed from the game.

“I was kind of shocked,” he said with a shake of his head.

About his offense and sloppy play behind him?

“No, no, no,” he said. “I had good stuff today. My arm felt good. Those were some good pitches they hit and I was talking to Bedard about that. He said the same thing.”

Felix is concentrating on Felix right now. What he needs to do to not just be good but be great. It is an added pressure to what he had to deal with last year.

As for the possibility of wanting out? It doesn’t exist right now. In a separate conversation Felix himself brought up the subject and told me that this is where he wants to be. He likes what he saw in the prospects this spring. He sees players that will help him in the future. He wants to see things get turned around in Seattle.

Could this all change? Yes. It is impossible to get completely into his head but Felix is solid. He always has been. I look back to two years ago when the articles by the national press were that there was no way that he could be happy in Seattle, there was no way Seattle could pay what he would demand and there was no way that he would turn down the opportunity to test the free agent market after two years. Because of this, they wrote, the Mariners must trade Felix. While these rumors were swirling Felix in his calm manner would look you in the eye and say that this is where he wanted to be. I believed him, but not many had the opportunity to have him tell them that personally so the stories went on until the day Felix signed the very reasonable contract.

Felix and his family are comfortable here. His oldest is in school and enjoying a steady upbringing, much like the one Felix had and that is a is a priority for them. Felix loves Seattle the city and has brought many family members here for extended visits. On top of everything else he desperately wants to see the organization he grew up with turn things around and succeed. Loyalty has always been big with Felix. It was the reason why he signed with the Mariners as a teenager in the first place. This is not a Greinke situation.

If things remain grim this could change. I would be foolish to think that it couldn’t but from what I have known in Felix, and in speaking with him from day one in the big leagues to today, this right now is a bump in the road that he can handle.

As for Olney saying that there are more teams after Felix than originally thought? Well that is not going to go away. Is what they are selling worth the price however? While he may not like what he is seeing at the big league level right now the priority for Zduriencik has always been to build the entire organization. There is a lot of excitement about the players coming up and it goes well beyond the more known names of Ackley and Franklin. Add to this the second pick in the upcoming draft and increased payroll flexibility after this season, this organization could take big strides in a year without trading Felix.

Sure, they could grab prospects from other organizations but in Zduriencik’s eyes they have prospects. What they wouldn’t have after a trade is an ace. What they also wouldn’t have is what looks to have become the most popular Mariner. For a team that is seeing attendance plummet and interest wane, losing Felix regardless of the take would be hard to overcome.

The stories will continue to pop up with every loss but the fact of the matter is it is just too early to completely abandon the plan. The prospects are coming, they have the No. 2 pick in the draft, Justin Smoak and Michael Pineda appear to be ahead of where many thought they would be. They knew the road would be rocky this year and the start was no doubt unpalatable to everyone.

I have little doubt some changes will be made soon but it will not be their ace. It is hang on time, not abandon ship time.

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