NEW YORK – Felix Hernandez is participating in his fourth All-Star Game, and he’s thrown a grand total of eight pitches.
For all the camaraderie of being around the game’s luminaries, for all the pleasure Hernandez gets out of sharing the experience with teammate Hisashi Iwakuma, for all the obvious delight he takes from being up close and personal at the Home Run Derby, the King is ready to get back on the mound.
“I love the Home Run Derby, but I want to pitch,” he said.
And it appears he’ll get his wish. Hernandez’s only game action came in his first All-Star Game in 2009, in St. Louis. He needed just eight pitches to retire Orlando Hudson, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.
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In 2010, Hernandez won the Cy Young Award but somehow was bypassed on the All-Star team. In 2011 in Phoenix, he pitched on the Sunday before the All-Star Game and by rule was ineligible to pitch, though he attended the game with teammates Michael Pineda and Brandon League.
Last year, Hernandez again started for the Mariners on the previous Sunday, throwing 113 pitches, and though he was technically eligible because of a rule change, American League manager Ron Washington opted to hold him out.
“If he was our (Texas) guy, we wouldn’t want them to use him,” Washington said after the game.
This year, Hernandez last pitched on Saturday against the Angels. He said American League manager Jim Leyland has told him he’ll pitch. He just doesn’t know when or how long, though Leyland has already said that anyone who started Saturday, as Hernandez did, will pitch just one inning.
The Tigers’ Max Scherzer, named by Leyland as the AL starter, also pitched Saturday, so Hernandez is a possibility for the second inning.
Iwakuma, however, is out of the game because he started Sunday, and Leyland stated flatly he would not use anyone who pitched Sunday. Iwakuma was replaced on the roster by Royals reliever Greg Holland.
“He’s sad, because he wants to pitch,” Hernandez said of Iwakuma. “But you know what? He just has to take care of himself and be ready for the second half.”
Iwakuma, a first-time All-Star selection, acknowledged he was disappointed to be out of action but said he’ll be a cheerleader for the American League.
“It’s very unfortunate to not be able to pitch,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki, “but at the same time you want to take advantage of each moment being here, being an All-Star, being with all this talent. This is a special moment for me.”
Hernandez brought a special guest to his All-Star media session at Citi Field — son Jeremy, age 4, who seemed to enjoy listening to his dad field questions in both English and Spanish, and even tackling one briefly in Japanese before giving up. “I’m always arguing around with Kuma, so I know a lot of words,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez also brought his wife, Sandra, and 7-year-old daughter Mia with him to New York, and his parents flew to New York from Venezuela. The Hernandez family and Iwakuma flew out of Seattle on Sunday on a private jet, accompanied by Mike Trout of the Angels, but Felix said they didn’t rub in the Mariners’ three-game sweep of the Angels.
“We just talked about something else, we didn’t talk about that,” Hernandez said.
Said Iwakuma, “It was quite an experience. I’ve never had the opportunity to fly with an opponent in the past. It was a good experience. You find out what kind of a guy he is with all the talent he has.”
Hernandez has tattoos on his right arm commemorating each of his All-Star appearances, with the year highlighted inside a star.
If Hernandez’s career keeps going the way it has, he’s going to have to start being creative.
“I’ve got a lot of space on my body,” Hernandez joked.
Iwakuma was asked if he had reserved a spot on his arm for a 2013 All-Star tattoo.
“Probably not,” he said.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry.