Results tagged ‘ Felix Hernandez ’

Pineda and Hernandez

A couple of former Timber Rattlers got into action for the Mariners yesterday.

First, the story on Felix Hernandez (’03)

This wasn’t exactly how Felix Hernandez expected life as a reigning Cy Young winner to begin.

There Hernandez was, on the second pitch of his first live action since being voted the American League’s best pitcher in 2010, sprawled on the ground, forced to hit the deck.

“I was like, ‘Wow, first game, man? You’ve got to do that?’ ” Hernandez said he told Oakland leadoff hitter David DeJesus, who singled hard up the middle. “It was scary.”

But Hernandez survived to tell the tale with a smile, and while there were a few other slight wobbles throughout his 2-2/3 innings, he pronounced his first game of 2011 a success.

“It was fun,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve pitched in a big-league game and I felt pretty good, throwing a lot of strikes, down in the zone. Breaking ball was good too, feel pretty good now.”
Then, Larry Stone recaps the day for Michael Pineda (’08) with a little help from former Rattlers pitching coach Jaime Navarro.

It was hard not to envision a day in the future — perhaps the not-so-distant future, for the most ardent dreamers — when the Mariners might have not one, but two dominating pitchers in their rotation.

Pineda is still raw, not yet two months past his 22nd birthday. Yet he exudes potential, from the huge frame to the electric stuff. Before the game, Jaime Navarro, the Mariners’ new bullpen coach, dared to say what many were thinking Monday as Hernandez and Pineda were showcased back-to-back in Seattle’s 6-3 victory at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

“You have Fifi (Hernandez) and you have Michael, who can become a great pitcher,” Navarro said. “That will be beautiful to watch. That will be one of my best days, seeing those two guys together.”

Navarro, as much as anyone, has witnessed firsthand the growth and nurturing of Pineda since his signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 at age 16.

Navarro was his pitching coach at Class A Wisconsin in 2008, Pineda’s first year in the United States. They were together again in 2009 at High Desert in the Class A California League.

When Pineda was elevated to Tacoma in 2010 after destroying Class AA competition (8-1, 2.22 earned-run average, 78 strikeouts in 77 innings for West Tennessee), Navarro — by then the Rainiers’ pitching coach — witnessed Pineda’s dazzling AAA debut as he blanked Salt Lake on one hit over six innings.

“From day one, I saw something in that kid not too many pitchers have,” Navarro said. “With Michael, it’s just a matter of time. He’s getting mature, getting comfortable. He’s going to be one of those guys — another Hernandez. It’s just a matter of how he’s going to handle it.”

I have the feeling that Pineda may be the next former Timber Rattlers player to make his major league debut.

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.

No pressure

Felix Hernandez (’03) pitched a simulated game for the Mariners yesterday.

Hernandez threw a 33-pitch simulated game Thursday before the Mariners’ 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, and pronounced himself ready to pitch in Cactus League games early next week.

Hernandez has been eased into his workload by the team the last two spring trainings in a bid to preserve an arm that threw an American League-best 249-2/3 innings last season and more than 200 in each of his past three campaigns.

“I was throwing strikes,” Hernandez said, adding that he could tell his stuff is ready. “The breaking ball was good. Change-up was all right. Sometimes it cut. Sometimes it dropped down. Everything looked good.”

He also had a visitor which gave me the idea for the title of this post:

Throwing to live hitters was the second most memorable thing that happened to the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Thursday. It took a back seat to meeting a guy who hasn’t pitched in a couple of years.

That would be retired former Mariners ace Randy Johnson, who dropped by the Peoria Sports Complex and had a chat with Hernandez.

“He told me I need to win four more Cy Youngs,” Hernandez said. “And he said, ‘You need 4,000 more strikeouts just to catch me.’ “

Hernandez’s reply: “I’ll be there.”

King Felix!

King Felix and the Cy Young Award

Felix Hernandez was a Timber Rattlers pitcher for two starts late in the 2003 season.

On August 24 he pitched at home against the Burlington Bees.  He gave up a grand slam in the first inning, but those were the only runs he allowed in that game.  For the day, Hernandez gave up six hits, walked two, and struck out eight over seven innings.  The Rattlers rallied to win the game and Hernandez received a no decision.

On August 29 at Kane County, Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings, allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out 10.  The Rattlers offense did not score in that game and Hernandez received another no decision.

Had the Rattlers forced a Game Three in their first round playoff series against Beloit in 2003, Hernandez would have been the starter.  He would have faced Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks in a playoff game.  That would have been something to see.

Why the walk down memory lane?

Felix Hernandez is the 2010 American League Cy Young Award Winner…despite going “only” 13-12.  Larry Stone explains:

Some would say the Baseball Writers’ Association of America came of age Thursday, as well. No question this year’s AL Cy Young vote was being viewed as a referendum to see if the head-in-the-sand dinosaurs of the BBWAA were ready to join the 21st century.

As a card-carrying tyrannosaurus — but one who tries to keep his head above ground — I fretted over the repercussions if CC Sabathia or David Price, with statistics inferior to Hernandez in virtually every aspect except victories, had pulled out the Cy Young.

The grudging acknowledgment of growth the BBWAA had earned last year for giving the Cys to Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum — with 16 and 15 wins, respectively — would have surely boomeranged.

But score one for progress, as Hernandez received 21 of the 28 first-place votes from two BBWAA members in each American League city (including, in the interests of full disclosure, myself. My five-person ballot read: 1, Hernandez; 2, Price; 3, Cliff Lee; 4, Jon Lester; 5, Sabathia).

Look back up at that start at Kane County on August 29, 2003.  Seven scoreless innings, 10 Ks, no decision.  I guess the minor leagues do prepare you for the majors.

No need to quantify again the historic ineptitude of the Mariners’ offense except to point out that Hernandez received a grand total of seven runs of support in his 12 losses.

You want more? How about this from an excellent post at Big League Stew:

Hernandez’s 13 wins are the lowest for any starting pitcher that has ever won the Cy Young award over a full season (Fernando Valenzuela had 13 in strike-shortened 1981), but an overwhelming majority of the electorate realized that wins aren’t under the pitcher’s control. Felix didn’t get wins 12 times he surrendered two earned runs or less and received a paltry average of 2.4 runs of support a game during his 34 starts.

Let me repeat and bold that last part for emphasis:

Felix didn’t get wins 12 times he surrendered two earned runs or less and received a paltry average of 2.4 runs of support a game during his 34 starts.

For the record, other Appleton Professional Baseball players to have won the Cy Young Award:

Dean Chance (Foxes, 1960): MLB, 1964
Sparky Lyle (Foxes, 1964): AL, 1977
Pete Vuckovich (Foxes, 1974): AL, 1982
LaMarr Hoyt (Foxes, 1978): AL, 1983
Doug Drabek (Foxes, 1984): NL, 1990

Im trying real hard to be the shepherd.

ESPN, The Magazine has a movie issue coming up soon.  Former Timber Rattlers pitcher Felix Hernandez (’03) will be featured as Jules, the Samuel L. Jackson character from Pulp Fiction. Of COURSE there was a behind-the-scenes video.

Bonus for the “Royale with Cheese” banter.

Also, Felix finds out today if he wins the AL Cy Young Award.

There are quotes from former Timber Rattlers pitching coach Rafael Chaves at that link.

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