For the second consecutive year, the Mariners ace wasn't used in the game.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three All-Star appearances, and all Felix Hernandez has to show for it is eight pitches. Three years ago.
Those occurred when the Mariners ace breezed through one quick inning in his All-Star debut in 2009 in St. Louis. Hernandez didn’t make the team in 2010 despite winning the Cy Young that year. Last season, despite being selected, he wasn’t eligible to pitch in Arizona because he had worked the previous Sunday.
Then, on Tuesday, he was held out of action by American League manager Ron Washington, leaving him to watch from the dugout as the AL got thrashed, 8-0, at Kauffman Stadium.
“It happens,” Hernandez said as he hurried out of the clubhouse to catch a flight back to Seattle. “I’m not disappointed. I still enjoyed myself.”
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Washington had indicated before the game that he wasn’t going to use Hernandez because of his 113-pitch workload on Sunday (the rules have been changed since last year to allow Sunday pitchers to be on the active roster). And the manager held true to his word.
“If he was our (Texas) guy, we wouldn’t want them to use him,” Washington said.
Hernandez said before the game he was willing to pitch — it was his normal day to throw a bullpen session, and “I don’t think it would be a risk” — but he understood Washington’s decision.
“He told me before that maybe he wasn’t going to use me. He said he just wanted to take care of me,” Hernandez said. “If they needed me, they might have used me.”
But not with the AL falling behind 8-0 after four innings, including five runs off Justin Verlander in the first.
“You know what? Bad day,” Hernandez said. “He’s good, anyway. Those guys are All-Stars, too. There’s big talent in here, on both sides. You look at their lineup, our lineup. It’s a dream come true just to watch all those guys together.”
Now Hernandez’s focus returns to the Mariners, and what he hopes will be a second-half revival.
“Definitely, I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting better and helping Seattle win. That’s all I can say.”
Wieters goes to bat
for old friend Smoak
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, appearing in his second straight All-Star Game, had words of support for childhood friend Justin Smoak. Both are from Goose Creek, S.C., and attended high school together (Wieters one year ahead).
Both were first-round draft picks after highly successful college careers at Georgia Tech (Wieters) and South Carolina (Smoak). Wieters was the No. 5 overall pick by Baltimore in 2007, Smoak No. 11 overall by the Rangers in 2008.
Both were touted coming up through the minors, but while Wieters, 26, has had his breakthrough, Smoak, 25, is still struggling to make his.
“Smoaky’s a good player,” Wieters said before the game. “He’s going to hit. I know it’s taking longer than everyone wants, but he’s going to hit. He has that kind of ability and that kind of talent. I don’t want to throw out excuses for him, but it’s a tough hitters’ park, it’s a tough place to play.”It’s a difficult game and no one has reasons why things come at a certain pace, but my belief is that his ability and his talent, which I’ve seen all the way growing up, he’s going to hit at this level.”
Wieters said he didn’t detect any extra frustration in Smoak when the Orioles were in Seattle during the last homestand.
“I think he’s far enough along in his career he knows that frustration is not going to help him out any,” he said. “It’s just a matter of putting in the work and the effort, and ultimately, whenever it is the time, it will be the time. But last year, when I talked to him, I think he might have been even more frustrated than this year. This year, he knows what he needs to do and that he needs to keep working to get better.”
But Wieters has no doubt Smoak’s breakthrough will come.
“I believe in him,” he said. “Absolutely. He’s the same guy. He’s a great guy, who’s going to hit, and he’s got ridiculous power. I still see that he’s going to figure it out and get to where he can be as a player.”
Safeco effect felt by opponents, too
Wieters also talked a bit about what it’s like to hit at Safeco Field, where the Mariners hitters have struggled mightily all season (.195 average), and opponents aren’t doing much better (.222).
“You can hit a ball good there and it won’t even be close to going out,” Wieters said. “It’s a tough home-run field. You’re going to get some base hits because the outfield is so big they’ll fall in. But that’s the frustrating thing — when you do drive the ball, and you think it’s going to be a double or a homer, and it just hangs up and gets caught. It can be frustrating, but it’s all about winning the game. Hopefully, your pitcher can get some of those balls to be run down, too.”
Former Mariner Adrian Beltre, now an All-Star with the Rangers, also addressed the topic of hitting at Safeco.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “I know for sure, it’s not easy. But I can’t really tell what it is. For some reason, whoever goes there, they don’t hit. It’s a tough ballpark for hitters. We all know that. We don’t know the reason exactly why that is. The ball doesn’t carry. The weather doesn’t help. All the elements.”
Asked if he thought the ballpark got in hitters’ heads, Beltre replied, “Oh, yeah. For sure. It’s different when you sit at home plate and face a guy, and you know in your head, if you make good contact, solid contact, and hit it in the air, it might go out. But in Seattle, you don’t get that feeling when you sit at home plate. If you put a good swing on the ball, even when you put it in the air, you know it might be an out. It’s just a different feeling. Confidence has a lot to do with results. If you’re confident, you perform better.”
Asked if he thought the fences should be moved in, Beltre lit up.
“I would like that,” he said. “I’m not playing there now, just visiting. I would like that, of course. (The ballpark) plays a little big, and it might help their team.”
Rodney honors his father
Rays closer Fernando Rodney had a special warm-up jersey made to wear during batting practice. On the back was “Ulise,” the name of his father, who died in 2002.
“I always said that one day if I made the World Series or All-Star Game, I would do that,” he said. “He taught me how to play baseball. I’m proud of him because he gave me a good education.”
Rodney also wore gold shoes provided to him by UnderArmour.