All-Star again, Felix has sights on playing this year
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TTLE -- Felix Hernandez earned his second straight All-Star Game selection on Sunday, and this time the Mariners' ace plans to actually pitch in the July 10 Midsummer Classic in Kansas City.
Hernandez was the only Seattle player among the 33 AL All-Stars announced on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. It will be his third All-Star selection overall.
A year ago, Hernandez was named to the team -- along with reliever Brandon League and rookie starter Michael Pineda -- but rules didn't allow him to participate after he threw for Seattle on the Sunday before the All-Star Game.
The Mariners are lining him up to start against the A's on the final Sunday before the All-Star break again this season, but the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement allows pitchers to do both now if they choose.
"I think this year I will be able to pitch, and that'll be awesome," Hernandez said.
Rangers skipper Ron Washington, who will manage the American League squad, certainly expects Hernandez to be involved.
"If Felix is in Kansas City, I can't imagine him not wanting to be a part of the game," Washington said. "Hernandez brings us a lot of presence. Nothing fazes him. When the lights go on, Felix rises."
Manager Eric Wedge certainly won't stand in the way.
"Felix is an All-Star," Wedge said. "Like I said after his last outing, that's the best I've seen him since I've been here. For me to say that about a guy that good, that's saying a lot. It's well deserved. He'll help them if they need him, and I'm excited for him and his family."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 4:30 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Hernandez is 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA in 16 starts, including a 1-0 shutout over the Red Sox on Thursday, when he struck out 13. He is currently tied for second in the AL in strikeouts with 114 behind the Tigers' Justin Verlander and third in innings pitched (110 2/3) behind Verlander and the White Sox Jake Peavy.
The 26-year-old right-hander also was an AL All-Star in 2009 and '11. He wasn't selected for the team in '10, when he went on to win the AL Cy Young Award. He pitched one perfect inning in '09 in St. Louis, needing just seven pitches to blow through Orlando Hudson, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.
"That was so short," Hernandez said.
But he's soaked up every All-Star moment and said he enjoys every aspect of the festivities.
"Everything," he said. "The game, spending time on the field with my kids, watching the Home Run Derby, it's unbelievable. It's a great experience."
Only five Mariners have been selected to more All-Star appearances in franchise history: Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr. at 10 each, Edgar Martinez with seven, Randy Johnson with five and Alex Rodriguez with four.
Hernandez had a rough stretch earlier this season when he went 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA in a six-start span during which he had one start pushed back due to lower back soreness.
But he's come back extremely strong of late, allowing just two runs and 17 hits in his past 23 innings while going 2-0 with three walks, 30 strikeouts and a 0.78 ERA in three outings against the Giants, Padres and Red Sox.
"I feel more comfortable, because I'm now pitching pretty good," Hernandez said. "Before, I was not doing good. I've got to do better than this. That's why I was so mad, because I was not doing my job. Now I'm turning it back and my performance is good. I've got to keep it going."
Hernandez attributes his rebound to some mechanical corrections. He's reduced his body rotation in his windup, which was keeping his arm too far back in his delivery. Now he's feeling stronger and the results are obvious.
"It reinforces everything we already know about the guy," Wedge said of his turnaround. "But I do believe this, he's still a young man, a young pitcher. And when you go through those tough patches you find out more about yourself. And when you come out of it, you come out even better.
"The fact I thought that last outing was the best I've seen him, I think that's what's happened. And it's not just the last one. The last three have been pretty darn good, but that last one was really special."