At this point, the Mariners need to do a favor to everyone involved and keep Felix Hernandez off the mound.
In an ideal world, Felix Hernandez would have thrown his back out on the pitch that struck Adrian Beltre out Tuesday. That should have been the lasting image fans had of him this season — one of him keeling over with laughter after dumbfounding his good friend in the second inning.
Tough night for Felix. As for what to do with him? Not a tough decision.
The Mariners can’t put Hernandez back on the mound again this season. His command is too spotty, his results are too inconsistent, his confidence is too shaky. It’s hard to write that about the organization’s’ best pitcher of the millennium — particularly when that pitcher has been all class throughout his 14-year postseason pursuit.
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But at this point, Felix makes the M’s too vulnerable. I’m not even sure he would argue otherwise.
Hernandez’s ERA has now crept up to an unthinkable 5.73. He has allowed at least seven runs in two of his past three games, and that two-run, five-inning performance against Toronto last Thursday was the statistical equivalent to a half pound of makeup.
Truth is, he was hit hard that night — just he has been hit hard throughout this unceremonious season. For the sake of the Mariners, their fans, and, yes, Felix himself, it’s time to make it stop.
If there was anything positive that came out of Tuesday’s 11-4 shelling at the hands of the Rangers, it was that Hernandez’s struggles were definitive. The Mariners’ brass — be it general manager Jerry Dipoto or manager Scott Servais — no longer risk blowback by shelving Hernandez at this point.
After Tuesday’s loss, and again Wednesday morning, Servais said the M’s are still contemplating whether Felix will make his next start. But you have to think those words were rooted more in diplomacy than they were in reality.
Right hander Erasmo Ramirez has already made four rehab starts for the M’s in the minors, and while he isn’t the panacea for Seattle’s recent woes, he offers a reasonable alternative at the fifth spot in the rotation. But even if Ramirez makes another rehab start and isn’t available Sunday, a different Triple A arm would likely still give the Mariners a better chance to win.
But what about as a reliever? Could Felix at least help in that respect? Probably not.
Dipoto made moves to try and fortify the bullpen before the trade deadline, and though recent acquisitions such as Andrew Warren and Zach Duke have been shellacked since coming to Seattle, it’s hard to think Hernandez would supplant anybody.
This is especially true considering that Hernandez has been rocked in the first inning all year long. Do you make a guy a one-inning specialist with that track record?
I hope Hernandez has the offseason of the century and gets his chance to pitch the Mariners into the playoffs next year. He deserves it, and his fans do, too.
Right now, though his fans and teammates deserve the best chance to win ball games. He can’t provide that.
This one is easy — time to shut him down.