Wednesday report: On an emotional day for Felix, a trade with Yankees and more
The big story was up in Seattle, of course, where Felix Hernandez put his signature on the seven-year, $175 million contract extension and then got very emotional as he explained why he chose to stay with the Mariners.
You can watch the whole news conference by going to the MLB.com video at this link. It’s well worth the time. The above photo, by AP photographer Elaine Thompson, shows Felix as he was surprised by Mariners employees all wearing “King’s Court” T-shirts as he got off the elevator to attend the press conference.
Hernandez vowed to take the Mariners to the playoffs and said time and again, “I’m not going to disappoint anybody” as he made it clear the new deal wouldn’t change the old Felix.
“I’m doing this because I care about the people of Seattle,” he said. “I love this place. This has been my life. This has been my family.”
It was pretty powerful stuff and another reason why everyone around the Mariners loves “The King.” I talked to some of Hernandez’s teammates as well as manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis about him today in Peoria and got some great stuff about why he deserves everything he’s getting. You can read that story here.
Jack Zduriencik made it clear from the start he wasn’t going to trade Hernandez, not to the Yankees, not to anybody. Then he went ahead and did trade a pitcher to the Yankees later in the day, swapping Shawn Kelley for outfield prospect Abraham Almonte.
On the field, it was a typical first day of camp with players going through fielding drills and half the pitchers throwing their first 10-minute bullpen sessions of camp. Among those tossing today were non-roster invitees Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman, who both threw well as they return from arm problems.
Catchers took batting practice at the end of the session and young Mike Zunino immediately showed some of the pop he brings to the table. It was also evident that Kelly Shoppach has a veteran presence that will be helpful with this young group of catchers.
The other veteran catcher, Ronny Paulino, wasn’t in camp yet as both he and young reliever Jhonny Nunez have visa problems getting out of the Dominican Republic. You can read about that as well as an update on new left-hander Joe Saunders and Eric Wedge’s thoughts on the dramatic improvement in talent level at this year’s camps in my daily notebook.