Felix Hernandez wants to represent his native Venezuela in next spring's much-hyped World Baseball Classic. The Mariners don't want to risk...
Felix Hernandez wants to represent his native Venezuela in next spring’s much-hyped World Baseball Classic. The Mariners don’t want to risk the most valuable arm in the organization, which they view as too tender at age 19 for the rigors of an intense international tournament.
Thus lies the seeds of a dilemma. The Mariners have filed an official objection to Hernandez’s potential participation in the World Cup-like event, but a source close to Hernandez said Thursday night the right-hander was hoping to pitch for his homeland.
“As far as I know, he wants to play and still plans to play,” said the source. “But there’s still lots of time between now and then.”
Though major-league teams have been instructed by the commissioner’s office to allow their players to participate in the inaugural 16-nation event, there is a mechanism for teams to raise objections. These can be based on injury concerns or what are termed “extraordinary circumstances,” which is how the organization views Hernandez’s participation.
They believe that his youth and past health concerns — he was on the disabled list last season from June 14 to July 9 with shoulder bursitis — make it risky for him to pitch in the tournament, which runs March 3-20 in Japan, Puerto Rico, Florida, Arizona and California.
“He’s going to be piling on innings for us, and every inning he pitches in the tournament is an inning that’s going to be subtracted from what he’s going to pitch for us,” said Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi. “Obviously, we value his contribution to our club very much, and that’s what’s important to us.
“Everyone has to remember he’s just a 19-year-old pitcher with an awful lot of talent, and we have to monitor him very closely ourselves.”
The Mariners filed the objection when they saw Hernandez’s name on a list of proposed WBC candidates from each country that went out to each team. Their case was to be heard by a technical committee, which according to the MLB Web site is comprised of “representatives from the various baseball organizations involved in the tournament.”
The M’s have not yet heard word of the committee’s verdict.
Ichiro is already confirmed as representing Japan, and pitcher Joel Pineiro will represent Puerto Rico, according to an Associated Press report Thursday. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is expected to be named to the squad of the Dominican Republic.
The M’s aren’t likely to have any representatives on the U.S. team, which according to sources will be managed by Buck Martinez, with Davey Johnson as his bench coach.
Other Mariners who could participate include Koreans Shin-Soo Choo and Cha Seung Baek. Newly signed catcher Kenji Johjima, however, will not join Ichiro on the Japanese team, declining an invitation in order to focus on learning his new pitching staff.
• Dave Brundage will move up from Class AA San Antonio to manage the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers next season, the Mariners announced. He replaces Dan Rohn, who will be on the Mariners’ major-league staff in 2006.
• Everett, the Mariners’ outlet in the Class A Northwest League, will have a new manager as well — James Horner, who coached for the AquaSox last year. One of his coaches will be former Tacoma manager and Mariners third-base coach Dave Myers.
• The new San Antonio manager will be Darin Brown, who managed Class A Inland Empire last year.
• Gary Thurman, who managed the Mariners’ Class A Wisconsin affiliate from 2000 to 2002, replaces Brown as manager of Inland Empire.
• Returning managers for the Mariners include Scott Steinmann (Wisconsin) and Dana Williams (Peoria).
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org