Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners notebook: Hernandez says he needs to get stronger in the off-season

Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez is planning changes to his off-season routine in an effort to build greater strength in his legs.
Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez is planning changes to his off-season routine in an effort to build greater strength in his legs. AP

Long-time ace Felix Hernandez acknowledged a need to get in better shape Sunday after a personally disappointing season that contributed to the Mariners’ failure to reach postseason for a 15th consecutive year.

"I’m going to talk to my strength guy and see what we can do," he said. "I need to get stronger in my legs. I don’t think it’s going to be a lot of difference. Just a different workout."

Hernandez also said he wants to pitch some limited innings in winter ball in preparation for participating next spring in the World Baseball Classic.

The Mariners are completely onboard after watching Hernandez, at age 30, miss seven weeks because of a strained right calf muscle and battle inconsistency in going an un-King-like 11-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 25 starts.

"It hasn’t been a great season for Felix," manager Scott Servais said. "Certainly when we missed him, the six or seven weeks he was out, it hurt.

"Where he’s at in his career, he’s going to have to make a few adjustments in the off-season and come into spring training in better shape and with more urgency. We certainly need him at the top of the rotation…

"He’s has a history of doing that, but he’s at that point in his career where he’s going to have to make a few adjustments to get the results that he wants."

Hernandez has long been resistant to any change in his routine — not surprising, perhaps, considering his success. His comments Sunday appear to represent a new openness.

"It’s not because I’m 30," he said. "It’s not because of that. I mean I injured myself, and I was out for (nearly) two months. I just have to be consistent. I have to be able to go out there and do what I’m capable of doing.

"I’m going to prepare myself. I’m going to try to play winter ball. I’m going to try to fix my mechanics a little bit. I’m going to try to play in the WBC (World Baseball Classic)."

Hernandez is only two years removed from winning the American League ERA title with a career-best 2.14 mark. A year ago, he won 18 games for a club that finished 10 games under .500.

But the Mariners’ failure this year to reach postseason hit him hard. Hernandez said he "didn’t even sleep" after Saturday’s loss to Oakland, which eliminated the Mariners from the postseason hunt.

"It was tough," he said. "It hurts a lot. But you know what? We’ll learn from this and prepare ourselves for next year."

Starting with a better-conditioned King.

PROMOTION LIKELY FOR BROSIUS

The Mariners haven’t yet had formal discussions regarding their on-field coaching staff, but sources indicate all six members are expected to return — along with one newcomer.

While not official, the Mariners appear likely to promote Triple-A Tacoma hitting coach Scott Brosius to the big-league staff. Tentative plans call for him to work alongside hitting coach Edgar Martinez, who just finished his first full season.

The Mariners spend this season with six on-field coaches — one fewer than permitted by Major League rules. They hired Brosius, 50, a year ago with an eye toward an eventual big-league job.

Brosius spent the previous 14 years as a coach at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., including eight seasons as head coach. That followed an 11-year big-league career from 1991-2001 with Oakland and the New York Yankees.

Martinez was the only holdover coach from the previous staff.

The others all completed their first year in the organization: bench coach Tim Bogar, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., third-base coach Manny Acta, first-base coach Casey Candaele and bullpen coach Mike Hampton.

OFF TO ARIZONA

Outfielder Guillermo Heredia gets a short break before reporting to the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 11.

Heredia, 25, is a Cuban defector who just completed his first pro season after signing with the Mariners on March 1. He batted .250 with a .349 on-base percentage in 45 big-league games.

The Mariners chose to send Heredia to the AFL because his visa does not permit him to play this winter in the Caribbean leagues.

Others from the organization assigned to the Javelinas: pitchers Luiz Gohara, Emilio Pagan, Thyago Vieira and Dylan Unsworth; catcher Tyler Marlette, shortstop Drew Jackson and outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

CROWD COUNT

Sunday’s attendance of 24,856 pushed the Mariners’ final season total to 2,268,573 for an average of 28,007 for the 81 home dates at Safeco Field.

That’s the highest attendance and average since 2008, when the Mariners drew 2,332,530 and averaged 28,797. Safeco Field lists 47,943 as capacity.

This year’s attendance represents an overall increase of 75,532 from last year’s attendance of 2,193,041, which represented an average of 27,075.

LOOKING BACK

It was 21 years ago Monday — Oct. 3, 1995 — that the Mariners played in postseason for the first time in franchise history when they lost 9-6 to the Yankees in New York even though Ken Griffey Jr. hit two home runs.

The Mariners eventually won the best-of-five series with a 6-5 victory in 11 innings in the fifth game, which was played Oct. 8 at the Kingdome. Edgar Martinez delivered a two-run walk-off double.

ON TAP

The Mariners should report to their complex in Peoria, Ariz., around Valentines’s Day to begin spring training for the 2017 season. The date isn’t yet firm because the World Baseball Classic hasn’t yet released its pre-tournament schedule.

The tentative date for their Cactus League opener is Feb. 25 against complex co-tenant San Diego at Peoria Stadium. The 2017 regular season opens April 3 at Houston. The home opener, against the Astros, is April 10 at Safeco Field.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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