SAN DIEGO – The “El Heat” jersey was hanging in his locker, and Felix Hernandez was wearing a perma-grin around the clubhouse of Petco Park on Friday – a day after his beloved Miami Heat won the NBA championship over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hernandez is an unapologetic and sometimes obnoxious Heat fan – clubhouse attendants are given, asked, perhaps forced to wear Heat shirts on the days he pitches, and a large banner was hung above his locker at Safeco Field during the playoffs. He’s been Heat-crazy for some time.
“Dwyane Wade is my favorite player,” he said.
Though he’s never met his favorite player, Hernandez has been to several Heat games and has a Wade autographed jersey he got through his agent since he and Wade’s agent work for the same company.
Hernandez watched the championship-clinching game Thursday night at Brandon League’s home in the San Diego area. Teammates Jason Vargas, Shawn Kelley and Justin Smoak, along with their families, joined them.
“I started yelling at everybody,” Hernandez said when the Heat won the title.
Smoak, however, said Hernandez was yelling pretty much the entire time.
“It was fun to sit there and watch, especially with (Hernandez),” Smoak said. “He’s always yelling at the TV, good or bad. It was good. He was all excited they won.”
Hernandez said all the players were cheering for the Heat. And he knew full well that most people in the Pacific Northwest weren’t cheering for the Thunder.
“All of the people in Seattle were cheering for the Heat as well, so we are good,” Hernandez said. “They can have a parade in Miami and a parade in Seattle.”
He is also aware of the push to get an NBA team back in Seattle. If it happens, he said, he would be a frequent attendee.
But he won’t always cheer for the Sonics.
“I will be there, I’d like to watch,” he said. “But if they are playing the Heat, I’m wearing my jersey.”
DEALING WITH NO DH
Despite his hot hitting against left-handed pitching this season, Michael Saunders was on the bench Friday against Padres left-handed starter Clayton Richard.
In his place was the equally hot-hitting Casper Wells, who was 5-for-9 with a double and five RBI against the Diamondbacks.
Had this not been a National League park, manager Eric Wedge would have had the designated hitter spot at his disposal. Instead, Saunders had to sit.
“We can’t get everyone we want to get in there without the DH,” Wedge said. “With (Franklin Gutierrez) and Michael, we will probably have them play two out of three games.”
Jesus Montero was also out of the lineup with a lefty on the mound. After battling the heat for two long games in Arizona, Wedge gave him Wednesday off. Couple that with an off day Thursday and the day off Friday, and it would be three days of rest.
“I think it’s a good time for him to have a couple days so he can mentally and physically get away from it,” Wedge said.
Hernandez (4-5, 3.52 ERA) will get the start for the Mariners. The Padres will go with veteran right-hander Jason Marquis (1-2, 1.86 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports .firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish