Felix Hernandez’s once-record $175-million, seven-year contract runs out after next year, but he told Fancred he’d like to play beyond that deal. Though he hasn’t broached the possibility of a new pact yet with the Mariners, he’d like it to be in Seattle, too.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got more years to play. I’m not going to retire,” Hernandez said recently at Yankee Stadium.
He leaves no doubt where he’d like that to be.
“I love Seattle,” he said.
Though he recently moved as far away as possible in the continental United States (after residing in Seattle a decade, he now spends winters in the baseball enclave on the southern tip of Miami in the Pinecrest neighborhood), he still goes back and forth. He bought his new place in Florida because, “it’s dark” in Seattle in wintertime, and for the golf, but left no doubt about how he feels about the city where he’s brilliantly plied his trade for nearly 15 years.
“I love Seattle,” he said.
His agent Scott Pucino also noted his “special relationship with (Seattle) fans.”
He’s a hard guy not to like, with infectious enthusiasm and an unmatched love for the game. For awhile it looked unlikely that Hernandez could go past the final year of his controversial mega contract (controversial because Mariners doctors found what was termed “deterioration” in his right elbow UCL when the deal was signed and suggested Tommy John surgery was a possibility), don’t put it past him. In many ways he is a walking pitching miracle.
The "likelihood" of Tommy John surgery proved misleading, and there’s no sign he'll ever need it. He’s never missed a moment due to the supposed elbow issue.
While Hernandez acknowledged doctors claimed to have seen something (“that’s what they said”), here we are, five-and-a-half years after the fact, and there’s nothing. Not a twinge, not a tweak. No nothing.
“I’ve got no problem,” Hernandez said. “I have no symptoms. I have no pain.”
The constant smile he wears is clear evidence of how he feels. While Hernandez readily acknowledges he isn’t the same pitcher that made six All-Star teams and dominated the America League landscape, he thinks he has plenty more bullets in him. He’s spent exactly half his life in the Mariners organization, and he’s thrown a few pitches in his day. But he has “a remarkable arm” in the words of Pucino, and he’s working on a reinvention.
His 7-6 record and 5.10 ERA suggests he’s been serviceable this year, but the latest miracle is that he’s trending in the right direction, still only 32 but with thousands of innings on that arm; his ERA has dropped three straight starts as he shows flashes of brilliance and increased consistency as the season goes.
“I’m not throwing 97, 98 anymore,” he said. “But I’ve got good stuff. I’ve got a good breaking ball and I can still get hitters out.”
Don’t put anything past the man who was the youngest to pitch in the big leagues in two decades (at age 19), who started Opening Day at 20, who’s one of a select group to throw an immaculate inning, and the last pitcher to throw a perfect game. All of this came long after that examination and the mirage of a balky elbow, which Hernandez's agents at Octagon got past by agreeing to a 2020 season at $1 million if he ever needed Tommy John surgery.
Of course, that was a clever way to get past doctors that didn’t know this patient. While he’s aged a bit, like any human, he never felt a thing in the elbow and now has a doctor saying he can pitch “20 more years,” he says with a smile.
That won’t be the case. But as far as that extension he’ll seek in his beloved Seattle, there’s no doubt in his mind it can happen.
“I’m still here, and I’m still pitching,” Hernandez said. “I’m going to be here awhile.”
Don’t put it past the man they call The King.