Felix hungry to improve as Mariners eye '16
Seattle ace curious about what offseason moves will be made to fill in puzzle
SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez will be headed off soon on vacation. And when the King travels, he goes big. Hernandez and his family will head first to Japan, then Dubai before winding up with friends in the Dominican Republic.
International journeys have become an offseason routine for the Mariners' ace, who last winter visited Turkey, Austria and the Czech Republic.
"Every year I go to different places," Hernandez said. "I just want to see what's out there in the world."
But Hernandez is just as curious what will be happening in Seattle during his offseason globetrotting. The 29-year-old just completed his 11th season in the Majors without reaching the postseason and his hopes for turning that trend around now lie with new general manager Jerry Dipoto, hired last month to replace Jack Zduriencik.
"I would love to know what's going to happen," Hernandez said. "We have a new GM and I want to see what he's going to do, what moves he's going to make. I'm just waiting for that."
In Hernandez's view, the Mariners simply need some fine tuning now to complete the puzzle. The club spent big money in adding Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz the last two offseasons. They locked up Kyle Seager to a long-term deal. But things never quite clicked last season as the Mariners went 76-86 and now are looking for a new manager to replace Lloyd McClendon.
"We've got the pieces right here," Hernandez said. "We've got Seag, we've got Nellie, we've got Robbie. When Franklin [Gutierrez] came here, he made a little difference. We have to wait for next year now."
But what about the King himself? Hernandez went 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 31 starts. It was the second-most wins of his career, but the ERA was his highest since 2007 and he fell shy of 200 strikeouts for the first time in seven years.
"I'm not happy," Hernandez said. "I'm not happy at all. I think I was inconsistent. I know I won 18 games, thanks to the offense, but I can be better than this."
And the six-time American League All-Star knows exactly where things went wrong.
"There were a few games I didn't like," he said. "If you take out those two games against Boston and Houston, I'd be in better position and I'd probably be happier than what I am right now. But it is what it is. I made mistakes and I just have to prepare myself better for next year."
Indeed, Hernandez gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning in a meltdown at Minute Maid Park in June and 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings in a flop at Fenway Park in August. Take those two games away and he was 18-7 with a 2.76 ERA.
But that's not how baseball works and Hernandez knows it. So once his world tour is over, he'll head to Venezuela and begin his annual offseason workouts. And this time, he says his motivation will be even higher.
"I work hard every offseason," he said. "I'm going to do the same workouts this year, but probably push a little harder. I'm going to try to be better for next year. I'm going to be 30 next year. I need to push harder."
As he spoke, Hernandez's young son, Jeremy, came up and asked to have his shoes tied. The King stopped talking about baseball and focused on being a dad. And that's part of the equation as well.
"That's my motivation," Hernandez said after the youngster ran off. "Every day. Him and my daughter. I just try to do the best I can to make them happy. Because every time I lose, they say, 'Papa, why did you lose?' So I try to win every game."