The end of Felix Hernandez’s career has been approaching for some time, but it gained speed this week.
Three years ago, “King Felix” had an 18-win season on a team that finished 14 games below .500. He rode that reputation through two injury-plagued seasons but now it is starting to fade.
Mariners Manager Scott Servais moved Hernandez to the bullpen Thursday night. He told reporters Hernandez would have a chance to pitch his way back into the rotation, but added quickly: “We’ll see. He’ll let us know on that.”
“Certainly, respect him and everything he’s done here throughout his career, but these things happen and ultimately it’s about the team,” Servais said, via ESPN. “It’s never easy but again hopefully he takes it the right way.”
The man who threw a perfect game in 2012, won the 2010 Cy Young Award, went to six All-Star Games and was considered by many the best pitcher of his generation is 8-10 with a 5.73 earned run average, more than two runs a game higher than his career mark.
His past two starts lasted a combined 11 innings in which he surrendered 13 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits (three home runs) and six walks with only four strikeouts.
Hernandez went six straight seasons between 2009 and 2014 with 200 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts.
But in that span, the Mariners were 446-526 and didn’t make a single playoff appearance. Hernandez was responsible for nearly a fifth of the team’s wins in that time period.
“He’s done an unbelievable job as a Mariner,” Servais said. “And I certainly don’t take any of this lightly, but I just think trying to make the best decision for the ballclub and really the best decision for Felix at this point is just take a breath. Step back, gather yourself.”
That means the Seattle front office will have to judge what Hernandez has left in his arm and whether he can manage working as a reliever. All of his 398 major league appearances have been starts.
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