Felix: ‘I just want to be here forever’
Felix Hernandez returned to Mariners camp Friday for the first time since signing his $175 million mega-deal two days earlier in Seattle and “The King” was once again the center of attention on a team that obviously treasures his leadership.
Hernandez took it easy in his first day on the field, throwing long toss with teammate Hisashi Iwakuma and participating in fielding drills with the group before addressing the gathering of media covering the team in Peoria.
“I feel pretty good, now that I’m here,” Hernandez said. “I just want to spend time with my teammates. I feel great.”
Those teammates exchanged hugs and heartfelt handshakes with their now-wealthier friend, as well as a little good-natured ribbing.
“They said if you need a loan, they can give me something and things like that,” Hernandez said. “They’re just playing around. These guys are great.”
The Mariners are counting on Hernandez continuing to be great as well. His contract is the ninth-largest in total value in baseball history and No. 1 for a pitcher, which isn’t lost on the 26-year-old.
He’s always been a workhorse for the Mariners, throwing more innings since 2009 than any pitcher in the Majors. He’s also been extremely loyal and that won’t change now.
One thing he insisted on having in the contract was a no-trade clause. The Mariners can’t deal him to any other team in baseball without his permission.
“That was the only thing that went into that contract, a no-trade clause,” he said. “I just want to be here forever.”
Clearly the Mariners will expect much in return and will continue marketing Hernandez as the face of the franchise. But that’s a role he embraces.
“I’ve always been responsible with this team because of the way they’ve treated me,” he said. “Nothing is going to change. I’m going to be the same guy I was before.”
Anyone who doubted his sincerity just needed to watch Wednesday’s news conference when he shed tears and got emotional in thanking the franchise and explaining why he wanted to lock up his future in Seattle.
“It’s coming from me. It’s coming from my heart,” Hernandez said. “The city of Seattle and all the fans have been great. I love that place. I live there and I love it.
“It was hard not to cry. After coming out of the elevator and then all the people there, then to see my wife crying, it was hard for me. … It was tough. It was a tough week. But finally we got this thing done and it’s time to play baseball.”
That process began Friday. He said now he just needs a couple days to catch up and he’ll be fine. After he went through long toss with Iwakuma, he walked past pitching coach Carl Willis.
“Bueno?” asked Willis.
“Oh yeah,” responded Hernandez.
Indeed, all is good with The King.