Just a few starts ago, he seemed to be struggling. But Mariners ace Felix Hernandez ensured his selection for the All-Star Game with three dazzling starts.
Felix Hernandez was startled awake Sunday morning by a phone call. It was Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis, telling his bleary-eyed ace he had made the American League All-Star team.
“I said, ‘OK, thank you. I’ll see you in two hours,’ ” Hernandez said, laughing. “I went back to sleep.”
When he finally rousted himself, Hernandez was thrilled with his third All-Star selection.
“Every one is exciting,” he said. “It’s truly an honor to be in the All-Star Game.”
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Especially considering that just a few starts ago, Hernandez was struggling so much that the big question among Mariners fans was, “What’s wrong with Felix?” He fixed that by going 2-0 with a 0.78 earned-run average over his next three starts, with 30 strikeouts in 23 innings.
“Felix is an All-Star,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Like I told you after his last outing, that’s the best I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. For me to say that about a guy that good, that’s saying a lot. It’s well-deserved. He’ll help them if it’s needed. I’m excited for him and his family.”
Hernandez believes improved mechanics fueled his turnaround. For the season, he is 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA.
“I feel like I’m more comfortable, and now I’m pitching pretty good,” Hernandez said. “Before, I wasn’t pitching good, and I knew I had to do better. That’s why I was so mad, because I wasn’t doing my job. It’s good to be back, man. I have to keep it going.”
Hernandez made the All-Star team in 2009 and pitched one scoreless inning in St. Louis. He was also selected last year, but didn’t pitch because he had started the previous Sunday. Hernandez is again slated to pitch the Sunday before the July 10 All-Star Game in Kansas City, but the rules have changed to allow pitchers in that circumstance to throw in the All-Star Game if they choose to.
AL manager Ron Washington of the Rangers told reporters that his indication from Hernandez is that he would exercise his option to pitch in the game even if he worked Sunday.
“I don’t think in Felix’s case, he’s going to come to the All-Star Game and not want to be a part of it,” Washington said.
Of his decision to select Hernandez as the lone Mariners’ representative, Washington said, “I thought it was important to get presence, a big-time pitcher. Nothing fazes him. When the lights are on, Felix rises. The lights will be on.”
Wedge said he didn’t have any issues with Hernandez pitching in the All-Star Game if he works Sunday.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Wedge said. “The only reason I would is if I felt he was in any type of harm’s way, and I don’t foresee that happening. Most guys throw their bullpen that second day anyway.”
Asked what he likes best about the All-Star Game, Hernandez said, “Everything. The game, the Home Run Derby, spending time on the field with my kids watching the Home Run Derby. It’s unbelievable. A good experience.”
Last year, the Mariners had three All-Stars — Hernandez, Brandon League and Michael Pineda.