Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is trying to figure out his place on the team. The former franchise icon is coming off the worst season of his career, and has already lost his spot as the team’s opening day starter.
The 32-year-old Hernandez isn’t happy about that development, admitting he was upset to lose his streak, according to the Associated Press.
Hernandez spoke publicly after his outing Sunday for the first time since Servais' announcement. Asked whether he was upset, Hernandez said simply, "Yeah," but declined to elaborate on his emotions.
"I knew it was going to happen," he added.
Hernandez had made 10 consecutive opening day starts for the Mariners.
It gets worse for the former Cy Young winner. Hernandez isn’t even sure he’ll open the season as the team’s No. 5 starter.
Asked about being the presumed No. 5 starter, he said, "What do you want me to say?"
I don't know.
His reply, "Exactly. I don't know either."
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 10, 2019
While Hernandez hasn’t performed well lately, falling out of the rotation entirely would be drastic. As he was putting up a 5.55 ERA in 2018, Hernandez was used as a reliever, but the Mariners enter 2019 with a much weaker team after selling off assets during the offseason.
The team does have its top prospect Justus Sheffield and No. 11 prospect Erik Swanson waiting in the minors, but neither is likely to open the year on the big-league roster. Despite his recent performance and his 15.95 ERA in three spring games, Hernandez still has a leg up on that No. 5 starter spot.
Considering the Mariners just started a rebuild, there’s no harm in letting Hernandez open the season as a starter. The team is going to be bad anyway, so it won’t matter as much if he struggles. There’s also the possibility he adjusts. Hernandez has plenty of talent. It’s unlikely, but he could figure out a way to remain effective.
If Hernandez can’t do that, keeping him in the rotation is going to be difficult. Sheffield should challenge for a spot in the rotation by midseason. Hernandez could be the easiest player to drop unless he’s in the midst of a resurgence.
It would be a sad way for Hernandez — who’s in the final year of his contract — to go. Considering all Hernandez has given to the Mariners throughout the years, going out with a whimper doesn’t feel right.
That may be the most likely outcome. And given everything Hernandez has gone through with the team recently, a change of scenery might be the best thing for both sides.
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