LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Felix Hernandez is taking a different approach to his offseason training, general manager Jerry Dipoto said Monday, as the longtime Mariners standout attempts to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2017 campaign by working more on flexibility instead of bulk in his shoulders.
A healthy Hernandez clearly would be a huge key for Seattle next season, and Dipoto remains optimistic that, at 31, there's still life in the 13-year veteran's arm.
"Felix is one of the best pitchers of the decade," Dipoto said on the first day of the Winter Meetings. "While last year he had some injury issues, his offseason has gone particularly well. He's in good spirits and good shape."
The Mariners said similar things last winter after Hernandez missed seven weeks with a strained right calf. But he spent last offseason bulking up by doing heavier lifting than in the past and attempted to get ready earlier to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League and World Baseball Classic.
Hernandez wound up missing nearly four months due to shoulder issues, making just 16 starts while going 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA. By season's end, both Hernandez and athletic trainer Rick Griffin felt he'd gotten too big in his shoulders.
"I didn't really hear about it beforehand, but only afterward," said Dipoto. "So I don't know if that will harm or hinder, but what I do know is he's home now and focused on preparing with more flexibility and mobility.
"Felix is proud. He's going to take this offseason as seriously as any of our players because he wants to show up and show people he's still the King and has the ability to deliver."
Mariners add outfielder from Phillies
Cameron Perkins, a 27-year-old outfielder who played 42 games for the Phillies last year, was claimed off waivers Monday.
The move puts Seattle's 40-man roster now at 37 and provides some needed outfield depth. The other four outfielders on the 40-man roster are Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Dee Gordon, who will be converting from second base after being acquired from the Marlins last week.
Dipoto said Perkins' athleticism and on-base skills made him a good fit.
"It's a depth move for us," he said "He's been a good Triple-A player, he's got options remaining. With the group we've put together -- Ian Miller, Andrew Aplin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis -- we're starting to fill in that Triple-A outfield. We had a lot of work to do to put together what we think is a nice layer in back of our Major League club, and this helps."
Perkins made his Major League debut last season and hit .182 with one home run and eight RBIs in 88 at-bats. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder played most of the season for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he posted a .288/.374/.447 line with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 76 games.
• Eric Filia added another honor to his outstanding season, as the 2016 Mariners Draft pick was named to the Arizona Fall League's 2017 Top Prospects Team as a designated hitter after leading the AFL with a .408 average.
• Though the Winter Meetings are inhabited mostly by baseball executives, player agents and media, Mariners utility man Taylor Motter was on the scene Monday with his fiancé. Motter drove up from his home in nearby St. Petersburg to see his agent and said he's eager for Spring Training to arrive. Motter said he's been working out this winter with former MLB standout Dante Bichette and his sons, Bo and Dante Jr. Bo is a 19-year-old who is the Blue Jays' No. 9 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com.
• Veteran utility infielder James Beckham, who got 17 at-bats for Seattle as a September callup at the end of last season, has agreed to return on a Minor League deal with an invite to big league camp, pending a physical. The 31-year-old was 3-for-17 for Seattle after batting .262 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 328 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma.