Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has heard the trade rumors but says he wants to stay with the team. "I want to help the Seattle Mariners win a World Series."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Felix Hernandez had a forceful reaction Monday when asked about the trade rumors that are again starting to swirl around him. Many feel that the Mariners have no choice but to trade him before his contract expires after the 2014 season.
“Why?” he asked Monday during the American League’s media session before Tuesday’s All-Star Game. “First of all, it’s not my decision. I don’t think they’re going to trade me. I like Seattle, and I want to help the Seattle Mariners win a World Series.”
Would he re-sign with the Mariners when his contract is up to continue that pursuit?
“I have two more years. I want to stay here,” he said.
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“It’s my decision,” Hernandez said of the possibility of re-signing.
Meanwhile, Hernandez keeps pitching games like Sunday’s, in which he worked 7-2/3 strong innings against Oakland, only to leave with the score tied at 1-1. Yet Hernandez has never revealed any frustration with the Mariners’ lack of offensive support.
“I like those kind of games, close games,” he said. “I don’t get frustrated. I try to help my team win. I believe in the organization. I believe we’re going in the right direction. We’re better. We’re going to be better.”
One nice sidelight for Hernandez: In addition to his wife and two children in Kansas City, his mother and father flew here, as well. It is their first chance to see Hernandez in an All-Star Game. This is his third.
Hernandez threw 113 pitches Sunday, which puts his availability Tuesday in question. However, when asked if Hernandez was definitely out of contention to pitch, American League manager Ron Washington replied, “No, he said he would be able to give us one (inning) if necessary. So we’ll see where we are and move from there.”
Here’s what Hernandez said: “If they need me, I’ll pitch. It’s my bullpen day.”
Does he want to pitch? Hernandez paused before answering, “Yeah. Why not? That’s why I’m here, right? I threw a lot of pitches (Sunday), so I have to talk to Wash, see what we’ve got.”
A’s fly Air Felix
Hernandez arrived in Kansas City on Sunday evening, having chartered a private Gulfstream jet that flew out of the Bay Area. A’s manager Bob Melvin, a coach on Washington’s AL coaching staff, and Oakland closer Ryan Cook, one of a record five rookies in the game, hitched a ride with Felix.
“It was on me,” Hernandez said.
Melvin, by the way, never got to manage Hernandez during his two seasons with the Mariners (2003 and 2004).
“I asked for him one time in spring training, to see him, and they wouldn’t even let me see him,” Melvin said.
Mariners management was apparently afraid Hernandez would be so impressive he would convince them to advance him to the major leagues ahead of their timetable. Hernandez broke into the big leagues in 2005, but by that time Melvin had been fired. Melvin has grown into a big proponent of Hernandez, and felt he looked as good as ever in Sunday’s outing against the A’s — another tough-luck no decision.
“He always does,” Melvin said. “He’s doing things a little differently now, but that’s the mark of a good pitcher. He’ll save the top velocity for when he needs it, but he’s so unpredictable now in the pitches that he throws that’s he’s just as good and just as effective as he’s ever been.”
LaHair breaks through
Bryan LaHair, let go by the Mariners after the 2009 season, has become an All-Star with the Cubs after a strong first half. Drafted by the Mariners in the 39th round in 2002, LaHair played just 45 games with Seattle in the majors, in 2008, when he hit .250 with three homers and 10 runs batted in.
“I don’t feel I had a full opportunity to show what I was capable of doing in Seattle,” he said.
Yet his feelings about his Seattle stint aren’t all negative.
“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity they gave me,” he said. “I thank the organization for developing me and putting me in a situation to succeed for the future. They did a great job developing my skills at first base and the outfield and especially hitting. I had a lot of great hitting coaches in that organization, from Terry Pollreisz to Henry Cotto, Alonzo Powell. Daren Brown was a great manager for me. Pedro Grifol. I had a great development stage in Seattle.
“I was attached to Seattle. I felt like I was being developed to be there. I love the fans, I loved playing up there, I loved the weather. My wife loved it up in Seattle. It was a great place.”
But signing with the Cubs organization turned out to be the move that jump-started LaHair’s career. He is hitting .286 with 14 homers and 30 RBI, with a .519 slugging percentage.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone in this room more excited than me,” he said. “It’s an incredible moment for me.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry