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Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez

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Felix Hernandez Player Bio

Position(s):
P
Nicknames:
King Felix
Born:
April 8, 1986
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 3"
Weight:
225 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-04-2005 with SEA
Allstar Selections:
2010 CY, 2010 TSN

Félix Abraham Hernández (born April 8, 1986 in Valencia, Venezuela), nicknamed "King Félix", is a Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.

Hernández throws a fastball that has been clocked as high as 100 mph, although he does not rely entirely on overpowering velocity. Instead he often uses a two-seam fastball, which comes in just a bit slower but with more movement and sink as it approaches the batter. His repertoire of pitches also includes a hard curve, a split-finger fastball, and a slider, all of which he can throw extremely well (he avoided the slider early in his career because the team was concerned it might injure his arm). When at his best, Hernández can induce a steady procession of groundball outs and strikeouts, with very few balls being hit in the air.[1]

Like some other pitchers, Hernández wears a long-sleeved undershirt beneath his uniform jersey. While typically this is done to keep the pitcher's arm from getting chilled, Hernández wears it even in the hottest weather. For him it serves to keep perspiration from running down his arms and interfering with his hand's grip on the baseball.[2]

Early life

Discovery as a prospect

Hernández was first spotted by Luis Fuenmayor, a part-time Mariners scout who saw him pitching at age 14 in a tournament near Maracaibo, Venezuela. Fuenmayor recommended Hernández to fellow scouts Pedro Avila and Emilio Carrasquel, who were impressed with the youngster who could already throw 100 mph. The Mariners signed Hernandez as soon as he turned 16, in accordance with MLB rules[3].

After graduating from high school, Hernández finally agreed to his first professional contract. Mariners director of international operations Bob Engle signed Hernández as a nondrafted free agent on July 4, 2002. Hernández received a large signing bonus of $710,000, although he said the Mariners were not the highest bidder.[4] Other teams trying to sign him included the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, and the Houston Astros, with the Braves reportedly offering the most money.

One reason Hernández chose the Mariners is because his idol, fellow Venezuelan pitcher Freddy García, was pitching for the team at the time. His agent, Wil Polidor, also attributed the decision to the influence of Hernández's father Felix Sr., a trucking business owner who handled negotiations for his son. Engle and the other Mariners scouts had cultivated a relationship with the family to explain their plans for Felix and earn the family's trust.[5]

Personal Life

Volunteer Work

Hernández is a spokesperson for the Seattle King County Humane Society. He has two puppies of his own, King and Oreo. When approached about this opportunity, Hernández agreed and added, "anything for the puppies." Hernández is also the Seattle Mariners Ambassador for the Pepsi Refresh Project, raising money for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.[6]

Professional career

Minor League Career

The following year, Hernández came to the United States and began pitching in the Mariners' minor league system. In 2003, Hernández tore through Class-A with a 7-2 mark in Everett and Wisconsin. Returning to his native Venezuela to pitch in the winter league there, he held his own at 17 years of age against competition that included established major league players.

Hernández was named the Mariners' minor league pitcher of the year in 2004, a season that also saw him make an appearance in the Futures Game. He started with Inland Empire in the California League, before being promoted to Double-A San Antonio, and finished a combined 14-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 149 1/3 innings pitched.

At the beginning of 2005, Baseball America listed him as the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball and No. 2 overall behind Joe Mauer. Hernández continued his success in 2005 with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 9-4 record with a league-leading 2.25 ERA and 100 strikeouts in just 88 innings. He was selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game but did not participate as he spent a month on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis. He was also named PCL Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.

Major league debut, 2005

Soon after returning from his injury, Hernández was called up to the major leagues by the Mariners. He made his debut on August 4, 2005, in a 3-1 loss in a road game against the Detroit Tigers. At 19 years, 118 days, he was the youngest pitcher to appear in the major leagues since José Rijo in 1984.[7] Hernández earned his first major league win in his next outing on August 9, 2005, pitching eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory at home over the Minnesota Twins. Over his first several starts, he registered a streak of 112 batters faced before he allowed his first extra-base hit, a double by Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox.

In 12 starts, Hernández posted a 4-4 record with 77 strikeouts and a 2.67 ERA. With 84 1-3 innings pitched, he exhausted his rookie eligibility. After the season, he became the focus of a disagreement over the possibility of his pitching in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Although Hernández was placed on a provisional roster by his native Venezuela, the Mariners objected, citing his earlier injury and expressing concern about the stress on his arm from adding this competition to the demands of a full season in the major leagues at such a young age. Their appeal to the WBC technical committee was eventually upheld.

When he arrived in the major leagues, Hernández was given uniform number 59. In 2006, he switched to number 34, the same number Freddy García (since traded to the Chicago White Sox) had worn as a Mariner.

2006 First full Season

For his first full year in the major leagues, Hernández arrived in spring training out of shape and had his preparation for the season interrupted by shin splints. He recovered in time to begin the season in the starting rotation, where he often struggled, but occasionally showed flashes of the potential that had generated such hype. His achievements included a few more personal milestones. He threw his first career complete game on June 11, beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by a score of 6-2.

On August 28, once more against the Angels, Hernández registered his first shutout, needing only 95 pitches and allowing five hits while picking up four strikeouts. The game, which lasted only 1 hour, 51 minutes, was the shortest in the history of Safeco Field.

Concerned about avoiding possible injury to their young pitcher, the Mariners declared that they would limit the number of innings Hernández pitched to 200 (counting both the regular season and spring training). This required them to skip his turn in the rotation a couple times as the season went on, after the Mariners fell out of contention. To allow him to make one last start at the end of the year, the team decided to raise the limit to 205. His 191 regular-season innings were still the most on the team, and he finished 12-14 with a 4.52 ERA. His 12 victories and 176 strikeouts also led the Mariner pitching staff. He also threw the fastest fastball of all major league starters in 2006, averaging 95.2 miles per hour.[1]

During the offseason, Hernández returned to his parents' home in a modest Valencia neighborhood, while awaiting completion of a house for himself, his girlfriend and daughter. At the team's insistence, he did not pitch in the Venezuelan winter league, unlike his older brother Moises, a pitching prospect trying to crack the majors with the Atlanta Braves.[8] A Seattle Times profile of his life in Venezuela, with its relaxed daily routine, raised eyebrows among those who remained concerned about his conditioning.[9] The team later explained that he had been specifically instructed to rest for two weeks after the season. He then picked up a workout regimen, including an improved diet, daily running, and regular weight training, to lose about 20 pounds. This put Hernández in much better physical condition upon his return to the United States in January, when he began a throwing program in advance of spring training.[10]

2007 Season

Based on his improved condition and a successful spring training,the Mariners indicated that in 2007 they would no longer limit the number of innings Hernández could pitch, focusing instead on pitch counts to avoid overuse. Hernández won the honor of being named the team's Opening Day starter. He became the youngest pitcher chosen for this assignment since Dwight Gooden in 1985. He pitched eight innings of a 4-0 victory over the Oakland A's, allowing three hits and two walks while setting a career high with 12 strikeouts.

Hernández thrust himself into the national spotlight with his next start on April 11 against the Boston Red Sox, a much-hyped duel with Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was making his home debut at Fenway Park. Hernández lived up to his end and upstaged the matchup of Matsuzaka pitching to his countryman, Ichiro Suzuki, by hurling no-hit ball for seven innings, finishing with a one-hit, complete game shutout in a 3-0 victory.[11]

During the first inning of his next start against Minnesota he was removed from the game because of increasing tightness in his right elbow, especially when throwing his slider. After undergoing an MRI exam that night, he was examined the next day and was diagnosed with a strained flexor-pronator muscle in his forearm and was placed on the disabled list. Two planned returns were put off as the team took a cautious approach in bringing him back, although it opted not to send him to the minor leagues for a rehabilitation assignment. Instead he was activated on May 15 and kept on a reduced pitch count initially.

Upon his return, Hernández initially battled to regain the form he had flashed in those first two starts of the year. Hernández finished the season with a 14-7 record. His victory over the New York Yankees on September 3, in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium, stopped a nine-game Mariner losing streak, but was not enough to keep the team from falling out of playoff contention. His 3.92 ERA for the season was the best among the team's starters, and he again led the Mariners in strikeouts with 165. He again threw the fastest fastball of all major league starters in 2007, averaging 95.6 miles per hour.[2]

2008 season

On June 17, Hernández became the thirteenth AL pitcher ever to throw an "immaculate inning" (striking out the side on exactly nine pitches). On June 23, in his only at bat of the season, Hernández hit his first major league home run, a grand slam, off Johan Santana of the New York Mets.[12] Felix became the first American League pitcher to hit a grand slam since Cleveland's Steve Dunning hit one on May 11, 1971, and was the first to do so since interleague play and the DH rule began. It was also the first home run ever hit by a Mariners pitcher. Later on in the same game, Carlos Beltran slid into Felix as he covered home, injuring the pitcher's left ankle. He was forced to leave the ballgame and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He finished the season with a 4.000 slugging percentage.

Hernández finished the season with a 9-11 record posting 3.45 ERA and 175 strikeouts. He also threw the fastest fastball of all AL starters in 2008, averaging 94.6 miles per hour.[3]

2009 season

In January, Hernández avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $3.8 million deal.[13] Hernández got off to a fast start, starting the season with a 4-0 record, only to fall cold in May, going 1-3. After a particularly sloppy loss against the Anaheim Angels, manager Don Wakamatsu publicly called him out for not "stepping up" as an ace. Hernández would go on to lose just two games during the rest of the year.

On June 19 against San Diego, Hernández threw a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Padres. This was his first complete game of the season and one of his best starts of his career. His sizzling performance in June (3-0 record, 0.93 ERA, 35 strikeouts) would earn him the AL Pitcher of the Month award for June, and on July 5, 2009, Hernández was selected along with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki as the Mariners representatives in the 2009 MLB All Star Game.[14] He made the first All-Star appearance of his career in the sixth inning, tossing a hitless inning.

By the All-Star break, Hernández was 9-3 with a 2.53 ERA while striking out 122 batters in 124.2 innings pitched. At the age of 23 years old, he became one of the youngest and fastest pitchers to strikeout 600 batters since Dwight Gooden. He would reach 800 strikeouts by season's end.

During the 2009 season, Hernández set career highs in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, and earned run average. Hernández finished the season 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 217 K's and in somewhat strong contention for the AL Cy Young Award. Hernández ended up finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award behind Zack Greinke.

2010 season

On January 21, 2010, the Seattle Mariners and Hernández agreed to a 5-year contract extension worth about $78 million, which added to the involved offseason in which the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley. On June 3, 2010, Felix struck out four batters in one inning. He did so by striking out Joe Mauer on a wild pitch before striking out Justin Morneau. He is the third Mariner to accomplish this feat.

On August 25, 2010, Hernández struck out David Ortiz to record his 1,000 career strikeout. He became the 3rd youngest pitcher to do so since 1952, behind Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden, and also the 4th overall, behind Bob Feller.

Felix HerandezHernández faced the Rangers on September 17 and was working on a no-hitter until Nelson Cruz broke it up with a home run in the eighth inning. In his next start, he threw a complete game two-hitter in Toronto, surrendering only one run on Jose Bautista's fiftieth home run of the year in the first inning. The Mariners offense, though, was shut out by Blue Jays pitching and Hernández was dealt his twelfth loss of the season, which saw 10 of his losses come because the Mariners were shut out or scored only one run. However, Hernández was still nominated for the This Year in Baseball Award on October 14.[15] Hernández won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award as he finished the season 13–12 with a 2.27 ERA, 232 K's and 249.2 innings pitched, leading the league in all of the categories except wins.[16] His 13 wins are the fewest by a starting pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in a non-shortened season (Fernando Valenzuela won 13 games in a strike-shortened season). He was also named the Sporting News AL Pitcher of the Year. The Baseball Prospectus Internet Baseball Awards named him its AL Cy Young Winner.[17]

International Career

Hernández represented his native Venezuela in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In his first outing, he pitched four innings in relief, surrendering only one hit while not allowing a run. In his next game, Hernández shut out Puerto Rico over 4.2 innings.

Salary History

Yr.     Team     Salary
2006     Seattle Mariners     $340,000
2007     Seattle Mariners     $420,000
2008     Seattle Mariners     $540,000
2009     Seattle Mariners     $3,800,000
2010     Seattle Mariners     $7,200,000
2011     Seattle Mariners     $10,000,000
2012     Seattle Mariners     $18,500,000
2013     Seattle Mariners     $19,500,000
2014     Seattle Mariners     $20,000,000

References

   1. Hickey, John. "Felix steals the show". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 12, 2007.
   2. Andriesen, David. "Hard-charging M's top Texas". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 25, 2007.
   3. Morosi, Jon Paul. "Big cast was involved in courtship of Felix". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 31, 2005.
   4. Andriesen, David. "Mariners prospect Félix Hernández 'untouchable'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 29, 2004.
   5. Stone, Larry. "MLB scouts acing their assignments". Seattle Times, April 17, 2007.
   6. "Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence ". September 24, 2010
   7. Schwarz, Alan. "Teenage pitching debuts". ESPN.com, August 5, 2005.
   8. Matt Eddy (2008-11-11). "Minor League Transactions". BaseballAmerica.com. http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=1792#more-1792. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
   9. Baker, Geoff. "At home with Félix Hernández". Seattle Times, November 26, 2006.
  10. Arnold, Kirby. "Starter Félix Hernández is in 'amazing shape' after an offseason of working out". Everett Herald, January 24, 2007.
  11. Keri, Jonah. "Dice-K, Ichiro abdicate to King Felix". ESPN.com, April 12, 2007.
  12. "Seattle Mariners vs. New York Mets - Box Score - June 23, 2008". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=280623121. Retrieved 2009-09-01.
  13. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090119&content_id=3749438&vkey=hotstove2008&fext=.jsp
  14. http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20090703&content_id=5672322&vkey=pr_mlbcom&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb
  15. http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101013&content_id=15614006&vkey=news_sea&c_id=sea
  16. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101118&content_id=16142048&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb
  17. Spira, Greg (November 10, 2010). "Internet Baseball Awards: American League". http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12428. Retrieved 2011-04-09.

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