For the first time in his career, Felix Hernandez will go to spring training with an organization other than the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners’ one-time ace and franchise superstar reportedly has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Atlanta Braves that includes an invitation to big-league spring training. If he makes the team, he will earn a $1 million salary with various performance incentives.
Hernandez, who turns 34 in April, will compete for the No. 5 spot in the Braves rotation. If he makes the roster, he could return to T-Mobile Park with the Braves on May 28-30.
Signed by Seattle as a chubby and talented 16-year-old out of Valencia, Venezuela, on July 4, 2002, Hernandez rocketed through the Mariners’ system, earning phenom status with a blazing fastball and wicked breaking pitches. He made his major-league debut Aug. 4, 2005 in Detroit at the age of 19. Over the next 14 seasons, he became the Mariners’ No. 1 starter and face of the franchise.
He was the most successful pitcher in club history, amassing a 169-136 record and 3.42 ERA in 418 starts and one relief appearance. He pitched 2,729 2/3 innings, striking out 2,524 batters. He won the 2011 American League Cy Young Award and finished second in a controversial vote in 2014. He was named to the American League All-Star team six times. He had eight seasons of at least 200 innings pitched and six seasons of 200-plus strikeouts.
He received a seven-year, $175 million contract before the 2013 season. From 2013-15, Hernandez posted a 45-25 record with a 2.86 ERA in 96 starts, but then injuries and inconsistent command became a problem that could not be fixed. He failed to reach 160 innings in any of his final four seasons with the Mariners with multiple stints on the injured list. In 85 appearances over those four seasons, he posted a 26-35 record with a 4.89 ERA. He finished last season with an 1-8 record and a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts, missing 87 games because of a strained lat muscle.