This time when he travels to New York, Felix Hernandez hopes he won’t have to answer the same old questions.
In the past few years, every time Seattle would travel to play the Yankees or Boston Red Sox, the local media would ask the Mariners’ ace about pitching for those respective organizations.
An elite pitcher like Hernandez would be a prize for any team, but the Yankees and Red Sox seem to almost expect Hernandez would be in one of the two cities sooner or later. Either the Mariners would be forced to trade him before he exited in free agency, or the draw of playing for winning organizations that could offer big money would lure him.
When the Mariners head out Monday for a three-game stay in New York that starts Tuesday, those questions won’t need to be asked.
The Mariners and Hernandez delivered the final answer just before the season when they agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract.
To his credit, Hernandez always answered the questions in the past, and often said how much he wanted to stay in Seattle. With the help of one the largest contracts in major league history, Hernandez verified those intentions.
“I didn’t really care,” Hernandez said. “They could still ask me now. It won’t be as much. I’m not even paying attention to that.”
His attention is focused on a marquee matchup Tuesday against the Yankees and fellow Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia.
“That’s a big matchup,” he said. “I just have to go out there and match him and do whatever I can to win the game.”
Hernandez has pitched very well in the new Yankee Stadium. In five starts, he is 4-1 with a 1.13 earned-run average. In 39ª innings, he has struck out 40 hitters.
“It should be fun,” he said.
PRYOR MAKING PROGRESS
Stephen Pryor is making progress on his return to the mound, but his gradual recovery from a strained side muscle isn’t quite as quick as the hard-throwing reliever would like.
“I’m antsy,” Pryor said. “I’m watching the games every night, and I want to get in there.”
Pryor has started throwing this week. He has played short catch from 45 feet three times.
“I’m kind of testing the waters to see how it feels,” Pryor said. “Then we’ll lengthen it out as far as distance and amount, and I’ll see how I hold up. Then I’ll get on the mound from there.”
The process takes time. But he’s hoping his return will come soon.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks,” he said.
GUTIERREZ GETS GOING
Oft-injured outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is back to baseball activities in his recovery from a strained hamstring. He took batting practice Friday and felt no pain afterward. Today, he will run the bases and increase his activity each day.
“He’s moving around a little more,” manager Eric Wedge said. “When we go on the road we’ll leave him back and let him continue to work. We’re going to look to have him run the bases tomorrow a little bit and see how that feels. Work early in the week, maybe run the bases again in the middle of the week and then see where we are from there.”
The Mariners wrap-up the Oakland series and their short homestand today with a 1:10 p.m. game. Left-hander Joe Saunders (2-4, 6.15 ERA) is scheduled to go against Oakland left-hander Tommy Milone (3-4, 3.13). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.