Teoscar's 1st Mariners HR a mammoth blast

Seattle's new outfielder clears batter's eye in Peoria with home run

March 1st, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With one sweet swing, showed exactly why the Mariners aggressively traded for him at the offseason’s outset and what he brings to a lineup that needed more power.

Hernández crushed a massive homer in his first at-bat during Tuesday’s Cactus League win over the Guardians, hitting it 112 mph and clearing the batter’s eye in center field. TrackMan didn’t have the distance, but fans could be seen racing after the ball near the venue’s outer edge, meaning that Hernández -- who had missed the previous two games with a sore back -- nearly left the yard altogether.

Mariners manager Scott Servais is entering his eighth spring here, and he said that it was among the most massive he’s seen.

“To center field, there's no question,” Servais said. “I don't think I've seen one hit that far.”

It was a dazzling display of pure power that could be a huge force and an embodiment of some of the adjustments Hernández has worked on in recent years -- and those he honed this offseason with new teammate Julio Rodríguez and his offseason trainer, Yo Murphy, at House of Athlete in Tampa, Fla.

“For me, it was more about how to use my body, how to control more of my body and use it all together,” Hernández said of the training. “Not thinking about my strength, thinking about [having] more flexibility, how to get my body really loose and all that stuff. Because for me, my body is really tight.”

He might not have the star power of Aaron Judge or former teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but Hernández hits the ball as hard as them. Last year, he slashed .267/.316/.491 (.807 OPS) with 25 homers.

Hernández ranked among the very best in hard-hit contact last year, as has been the case since he's become an everyday player in 2018.

“I’m just trying to minimize the movement in my swing,” Hernández said. “The way I get to the ball, I’m just trying to use my body. I know I’m strong. I just have to hit the ball. I don’t need to think about hitting it hard. That way, I can stay more engaged with the pitches and control the strike zone more.”

Leveraging body movements was a huge factor in Rodríguez’s training with Murphy and how he transformed himself from a pudgy prospect to elite five-tool player.

But it was simply reaching out that brought the two players together after the Mariners acquired Hernández from Toronto in November in exchange for reliever Erik Swanson and left-handed pitching prospect Adam Macko. Rodríguez already knew he was likely going to be teammates with Hernández playing for the Dominican Republic at the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but when he realized that Hernández was training solo over the winter, he invited him to House of Athlete.

“He’s a great teammate,” Rodríguez said. “Super fun to be around, and he works hard. ... You saw what he did in the postseason against us, and guys like that, we need guys like that on this team.”

Rodríguez’s reference was to the two huge homers that Hernández hit off Robbie Ray in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series, overshadowed by the historic deficit that the Mariners overcame to win and advance.

“I had multiple [Toronto teammates who] said they wanted to play Seattle,” Hernández recalled of last postseason. “I was the one who said, ‘No.’ I saw the really good team that they have. I know they have a really good pitching staff, starters and relievers, and I didn’t want to face that.”

The talent and potential of his new environment made leaving another contending team more palatable. But for a player only under contract through 2023, earning $14 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, his efforts off the field have been notable. Hernández and catcher Cal Raleigh were the only players at the Spring Training media preview last month, and during that same trip, they visited a new Mariners Training Center for an afternoon coaching children.

What made him feel so at home so quickly?

“The people,” Hernández said. “When you’re around people that know how to stay together and know how to handle each other, I think that’s when relationships get closer and closer. I feel like everybody here is doing that. ... That’s one of the biggest things that I see here.”

Hernández may only be here for one season -- especially given that he’ll be arguably the best power hitter not named Shohei Ohtani in next year’s free-agent class -- but he intends to make the most of it.