SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez has started 411 games over 15 seasons in his illustrious Mariners career, but whether he makes another remains to be seen as the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner pushes to return from a right shoulder issue that has sidelined him the past 10 weeks.
The 33-year-old threw 22 pitches in a live batting-practice session against teammates Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes on Thursday at T-Mobile Park and hopes to begin a Minor League rehab stint on Sunday at Class A Short Season Everett, though manager Scott Servais tapped the brakes on those plans and said no final decision has been made yet on the next step.
Hernandez, who went 1-4 with a 6.52 ERA in eight starts before being shut down in mid-May, is hoping to return for at least a handful of Major League outings before the end of the season.
“I need it,” he said. “If I want to play next year, I need to go out there and pitch. I have to go out and compete. I’ve been thinking about next year, for sure. That’s why I need to go out there and show them I can pitch.”
Hernandez said he’s been pondering his future over the past two months as the realization has begun sinking in that his place in MLB is no longer assured. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $27 million this season and would love to get back in front of the Mariners’ fans before this season ends.
“That would be awesome,” he said. “All I’ve done here, it would be awesome for the fans.”
After being one of MLB’s most durable workhorses from 2006-15, when he threw 190-plus innings for 10 straight years, he’s been plagued by injuries the past three years. This season has been the worst and he says the cause of his shoulder issue is pretty simple.
“Probably a lot of innings over all my years,” he said. “A lot of baseball I’ve been through my whole career. There’s a lot of miles on that arm.”
While Hernandez’s hope is he can make one start for Everett, then pitch for Triple-A Tacoma five days later and join the Mariners after that, reality may preclude that quick of a return.
“Felix has a ways to go,” Servais said after watching the former ace throw. “It was rusty, is the best way to describe what I saw today. There was some talk of getting him out on a rehab. He may need to do another live BP. We’ll see.”
Hernandez acknowledged his command wasn’t there Thursday and Servais echoed that theme.
“He hasn’t pitched in forever,” Servais said. “It’s the first time we’ve had hitters in there. I don’t want to put him out somewhere and have a setback. You have to have your legs under you and an idea where the ball is going. He looked like a guy who hadn’t been out there in a long, long time.”
Servais did say Hernandez’s arm looked healthy, so the issue now will be getting his timing and mechanics back and see how things go.
Does he expect Hernandez to pitch again for the Mariners?
“I certainly hope so,” Servais said. “But a lot will be dictated on how the rehab assignment goes and how he looks and feels.”