HOUSTON -- Felix Hernandez, one of the game's premier starters over his 14-year career and long known as "The King" in Seattle, will be moving to the bullpen after struggling through the toughest stretch of his time with the Mariners, manager Scott Servais said following Thursday's 8-6 victory over the Astros.
Hernandez walked out to the Mariners bullpen midway through Thursday's game at Minute Maid Park and spent the rest of the night watching with the rest of the relievers, though he'd just started two days earlier and wasn't going to be used there yet.
Servais didn't rule out an eventual return to the rotation, but he said Hernandez will take on a relief role going forward and the club will see how things play out. Hernandez is 8-10 with a career-high 5.73 ERA in 23 starts this year.
"He's done an unbelievable job as a Mariner, and certainly I don't take any of this lightly," Servais said. "But I just think trying to make the best decisions for the ballclub, and really for Felix at this point, let's just take a breath, step back, gather yourself."
Hernandez, a six-time All-Star and 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, declined comment after the game.
"I've got nothing to say," Hernandez said.
Hernandez has one more season remaining on a contract that will pay him $27 million next year. He's spent his entire career with the Mariners and owns a 168-124 record and 3.24 ERA in 398 starts.
Hernandez was scheduled to face the Astros in the series finale on Sunday. Servais declined to say who would start that game in his place.
"There's been a lot going on with Felix," Servais said. "A lot of pressure or whatever you call it, everybody's expectations of where he's at."
Hernandez gave up a career-high 11 runs (seven earned) on eight hits and four walks in an 11-7 loss at Texas on Tuesday.
<p<> The conversation with Hernandez wasn't easy, Servais acknowledged. </p<>
"Very difficult," he said. "I certainly respect him and everything he's done here throughout his career. But these things happen, and ultimately it's about the team. It's never easy. Hopefully, he takes it the right way. He'll get a chance to pitch at some point down there, and maybe he can work his way back into the rotation. But we'll see. He'll let us know on that."