Of all the questions surrounding the Seattle Mariners this season – why can’t they hit at Safeco Field, how can you play Brandon Ryan when he’s batting .157 – the biggest has been this:
What’s wrong with Felix Hernandez?
The staff ace and a former Cy Young Award winner is 4-5 with a 3.70 earned run average in 13 starts, and opposing hitters are batting .260 against him.
As discouraging, his fastball, which once touched 97 mph, is averaging 92 mph and has topped out at 93.
No one seems certain, but on Sunday Felix will unveil a slightly different windup – one he and pitching coach Carl Willis tinkered with in a bullpen session this week.
“I’ve always stood on the mound facing home plate before I start my windup, and Carl noticed I’d been facing third base this year,” Hernandez said Friday. “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s happening, so I tried something different in the bullpen.”
It wasn’t just facing home plate.
“I’d been turning a little too much in the windup, more than I had last year, so I shortened that,” Felix said. “I’m not turning as much.
“That’s just in the windup, not from the stretch, but it felt good.
“By turning too much, my arm wasn’t catching up with my body, and when that happens, my pitches come up,” he said. “In the bullpen, by shortening that turn, I could keep my pitches down.”
Felix said all that didn’t mean all his issues had been solved, but that it should make a difference.
“We’ll see Sunday,” he said.