MINNEAPOLIS – Really, there was no other choice for John Farrell. Sure, Detroit’s Max Scherzer has been outstanding this season and Yu Darvish of the Rangers has been good, but no pitcher in the American League was more deserving to start the All-Star Game on Tuesday than Felix Hernandez.
With Hernandez sitting to his right during a news conference Monday, Farrell, the manager of the Red Sox and the AL All-Star team, announced that the Mariners’ ace would start.
“There are many deserving candidates to be the starter of this team,” Farrell said, “but given what he’s done over his long, successful career, what he’s doing this year, it’s an honor to name Felix our starter.”
Wearing a baseball cap with a crown on it and his son, Jeremy, seated next to him on the stage, Hernandez was all smiles, thanking Farrell for the opportunity with a handshake.
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“It’s an honor to be here to be part of this,” he said. “I just have to go out there and do what I have to do, throw zeros out there and help my team to win.”
Hernandez has been stellar for the Mariners this season. He’s 11-2 in 20 starts with a 2.12 earned-run average. In 1441/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 154 batters, walked just 25 and allowed five homers.
In his past 11 starts, he’s pitched seven or more innings and allowed two or less runs. It’s the longest season streak of those starts since Gaylord Perry did it in 1974. In those 11 starts, Hernandez is 7-1 with a 1.48 ERA.
Hernandez was subdued and humble in talking about the honor, but his teammates know how vital this opportunity is for him.
“I know it means a lot to him,” said Robinson Cano, who will start Tuesday at second base. “It would mean a lot to anyone. As a player, you want to start this game, you don’t want to sit on the bench and watch somebody else.”
Hernandez is the second Mariners pitcher to start the All-Star Game. Randy Johnson started in 1995 and in 1997.
“I think it’s really good for him to be recognized for what he’s done,” said fellow All-Star Kyle Seager. “We all know how special he is, but for him to get the recognition on the national stage, it’s well deserved.”
Hernandez is the first Venezuelan pitcher to be named a starter.
“To be the first Venezuelan guy, it’s something special,” he said.
He will be pitching to a fellow Venezuelan, Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez.
“I’m 100 percent excited,” Perez said. “I’m excited to be the first two Venezuelan guys, pitcher and catcher, to start an All-Star Game. It’s big for him. I know it’s big for me.”
Hernandez is loathe to talk about his own success, but opponents weren’t afraid to shower him with praise.
“He’s getting better every year,” said Rangers third baseman and close friend Adrian Beltre. “Sometimes you expect a guy to slow down a little bit. But he learns every year how to be more consistent. He’s getting nastier by the day. He’s so competitive. He has so much heart. He pitches with guts. Every time he’s out there, his team believes it can win. And that’s not something every pitcher can do.”
No team has had to endure Hernandez’s success more than the Oakland A’s. The team with the best record in baseball is 0-4 against the Mariners in Hernandez’s starts this season. Hernandez has a 3-0 record with a 2.43 ERA in those four starts.
“I don’t want to ever see him again,” said Oakland’s Derek Norris. “There’s something about it that when he pitches against us that he just turns it up a notch and he becomes kind of unhittable.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.