General manager Jack Zduriencik just announced that Felix Hernandez has been shut down for the season. There was some hope that Hernandez might make start the final game of the season on Sunday against the Oakland A's at Safeco Field.
But since Hernandez has thrown a career high 249 2/3 innings this season, which followed a 2009 season where he threw a then-career high 238 2/3 innings, Zduriencik decided to end his season for "precautionary" reasons.
"It's a decision I think is in his long-term best interests," Zduriencik said. "And that's why we put it at the forefront."
Zduriencik, manager Daren Brown, pitching coach Carl Willis and Hernandez all met to discuss it earlier on Thursday.
"I understand what they’re trying to do," Hernandez said. "They want me here for five more years, and I understand. I mean, I want to pitch. I just want to pitch. I said, “You know, Jack, I want to pitch,” but he’s the boss. He made the decision."
Of course, the more they talked, the more Hernandez understood.
"I’m healthy, so I want to be healthy for four more years and the rest of my career," he said. "That’s what (Zduriencik) is trying to do is to keep me healthy. It’s for next year. I’m not going anywhere. So we just want to be careful."
Hernandez ends the season with a 13-12 record and a 2.27 ERA. As of today, he leads the American League in ERA (2.27), innings (249.2) and strikeouts (232).
"He's had a phenomenal year," Zduriencik said. "I wish the circumstances were different. It's the last game of the season. With what he's done, we'd like for him to start preparing for next season."
Obviously, the debate of whether Hernandez should start on Sunday is largely based on the American League Cy Young award. Right now, Hernandez along with C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees, David Price of the Rays and Jon Lester of the Red Sox are considered the favorites. But Hernandez's 13-12 record could be a major detractor to his candidacy in the eyes of some voter. There was some thought that a final start might sway undecided voters.
Zduriencik scoffed at such a notion.
"He leads the league in so many categories. Is one more start going to make that much of a difference?" Zduriencik said. "If you are a true baseball person, and you look at what he's done this year, is that one extra outing going to mean that much. In my opinion, he should get the Cy Young award. He's earned it, regardless of the won-loss record. All of the other numbers are in his favor."
When told of Zduriencik's reaction, Hernandez got a mischievous grin.
"It could be better if I throw one more game!" he chuckled. "But what are we going to do in my next start? I mean, look at my numbers."
Will Hernandez win the award? It certainly will be close and will test the voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America that are doing the voting. There has been a movement in recent years to discredit the value of the a pitcher's win-loss record. Hernandez's performance this season would certainly be a great example.
"They have to look at all the numbers," he said. "Wins is not in my hands. The other numbers I’ve got, I think I’ve got a chance."
He has the worst run support average of any starting pitcher in the American League at 3.1 runs per game thanks to a historically bad Mariners' offense. In his 12 losses the Mariners have scored a total of 7 runs while he was in the game pitching. The Mariners have scored one run or less in 10 of his 34 starts and two runs or less in 15 times.
"He's handled himself with a tremendous amount of class," Zduriencik said. "I know there were times when he should have been frustrated by the lack of run support. The games are tough when he goes out there and puts his heart and soul on the line and we don't score a run for him."
When asked who should win the award, Hernandez didn't hesitate.
"Me," he said.
It's an indicator of how bad Hernandez wants to win the award after he finished second in the voting for last year behind Zack Greinke.
"We all want the Cy Young. Every starting pitcher wants the Cy Young," he said. "But it’s not in my hands."