Zduriencik says Felix reporting and throwing as ‘normal’
While national reports have been saying Felix Hernandez and the Mariners had agreed on a seven-year, $175 million contract since last Thursday, the Mariners continued insisting no deal was done and those reports were inaccurate.
Now ESPN’s Buster Olney has laid out a potential reason why, saying there could be concerns with Hernandez’s pitching elbow.
But I talked to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik this afternoon after team officials flew to Peoria, Ariz., for the start of camp and he said Hernandez has been throwing as normal for the last month getting ready for the season and would be reporting with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers as expected on Tuesday.
“He’s coming down tonight and will be here to get his physical and we’ll get rolling,” Zduriencik said. “I’m not going to comment on any of that other stuff. It’s ridiculous. I’ve watched him at the ballpark [Safeco Field] for the last month or so throwing and he’s his normal self.”
Olney said one source told him the elbow is “an issue” in finalizing the new deal. Here’s his story on ESPN.com.
Hernandez did withdraw from the World Baseball Classic late last week, telling Venezuela head coach Luis Sojo he would not be able to participate due to the ongoing contract negotiations.
Hernandez also took to Twitter to apologize to Venezuela’s fans while asking that they respect his decision and the need to put his family first while working out his contract. He made no mention of health issues.
Hernandez has been one of the most durable pitchers in Major League Baseball since joining the Mariners at age 19. He has pitched 200-plus innings the past five seasons, including 232 or more the last four.
Since 1969, only Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden have pitched more innings before the age of 27, with Hernandez at 1,620 1/3 in his eight seasons with Seattle.
Hernandez did struggle down the stretch last season, going 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in his final six outings, but no arm troubles were ever mentioned and he never missed a start.
The Mariners ace was one of the American League’s premier pitchers most of the season and put together a nine-game win streak in midseason that included five shutouts and a perfect game. He finished the season 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 232 innings.
Hernandez has two years remaining on his current contract, which pays him $20 million this coming season and $20.5 million in 2014.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the first to report a new extension that would erase those last two years and pay Hernandez $25 million a year through 2019, though a baseball source with knowledge of the negotiations immediately said that report was inaccurate.
Wilfredo Polidor, one of Hernandez’s representatives with the Octagon agency, told ESPNdesportes.com on Saturday that no agreement had been reached but that “we are moving forward” and estimated the deal as 70 percent done.
My sense is that negotiations are ongoing and that things still need to be worked out. Maybe the Mariners want language protecting them from a long-term injury situation. Maybe they want to see Hernandez throw for a while this spring to better gauge his condition.
Maybe both sides just realize they’ve got two years still to work something out and there’s plenty of time to get it right.