Three Pitchers

News on three former Timber Rattlers who are on three different teams.

Felix Hernandez (2003) has faith:

Felix Hernandez was getting ready to hit the field for his morning workout Saturday at the Peoria Sports Complex when a reporter’s question stopped him in his tracks.

Why should anybody care about the Seattle Mariners this year?
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner thought about it for a moment and smiled.

“Because we could be a surprise, that’s why,” Hernandez said. “Baseball’s weird, man. You always see a surprise team every year. Hey, why not us?”

Hernandez, who went 13-12 last season with a 2.27 ERA, brought that subject up himself Saturday when he said, “My only goal this year is to stay healthy. If I do that, I could be part of some really good things.”

If the Mariners slide into the tank, however, don’t think teams such as the Yankees won’t be circling the water, sniffing out a possible trade for the Venezuelan right-hander.

“I don’t think I’m going to get traded,” Hernandez said. “I don’t want to be traded, either.”

Matt Thornton (2000) has a new contract:

Matt Thornton has signed a two-year extension with the Chicago White Sox, with a team option for the 2014 season, the club announced Sunday morning.

“[White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] grabbed me [this morning] when it was official and said, ‘Hey, I really appreciate you being one of the core guys,'” Thornton said. “It means a lot to them that I want to stay here and be a part of this.”

The news came as a bit of a surprise here, on a sleepy Cactus League Sunday.

“We started talks a couple of weeks ago, and it went quickly,” Thornton said. “I’m more than satisfied. It’s an exciting situation, a substantial amount of money for my family and hopefully their children and on and on with my family.”

According to Thornton, there was little question of leaving the White Sox.

“It was an easy choice with an organization like this, with what they’ve done the last five months or so, retaining the core guys, adding the pieces, and expecting to win,” he said. “That’s my goal, to win at least one World Series.”

Brian Fuentes (1997) has a new team:

A’s reliever Brian Fuentes finds an unconventional way to get hitters out.

That’s fitting considering his baseball career has unfolded in unusual fashion, too.

Fuentes, a key newcomer to the A’s bullpen, didn’t even start pitching until he was a senior at Merced High. From there, he moved on to Merced Junior College, thinking a career in forestry was more likely than one in baseball.

Fuentes was drafted in the 25th round by the Seattle Mariners. But his career didn’t take off until he converted to a sidearm delivery, one that A’s teammate Brett Anderson describes as “funky.”

You can’t argue with the results.

Fuentes, 35, made four All-Star teams with the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels, and his 183 saves since 2005 are the most in the major leagues among left-handed relievers.

“I would have had different mechanics if I was able to,” he said. “It was a blessing in disguise, having an unorthodox delivery.”

As Fuentes pushes off the mound, his throwing arm lags behind his body before he whips the ball toward home plate. That makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball.

Fuentes had 24 saves and a 2.81 ERA during a 2010 season split between the Angels and Minnesota Twins.

Perhaps most important to the A’s, he didn’t allow a run in 15 outings against American League West opponents.

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