It will be his third All-Star Game today and, like last year, Felix Hernandez isn’t likely to take the mound – not after having thrown 114 pitches two days ago.
Still, the “All-Star” label is meaningful to him.
“Being an All-Star crosses my mind every year at some point. It means you’re having a good year for your team and yourself,” Hernandez said.
“I feel like I belong. I believe in myself, but it’s an honor. It’s also a lot of fun. Some of my numbers aren’t as good as other pitchers, but if you look at all of them, I think I deserve to go,” he said.
By the numbers, Hernandez lacks only a glossy win-loss record – a tough assignment for the ace of a Seattle Mariners team that’s 36-51.
Felix is 6-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 18 starts. His 1232/3 innings are, like his win total, second on the club to Jason Vargas (8-7, 126 innings), but in those innings Hernandez has struck out 128 batters.
“Felix is an All-Star,” manager Eric Wedge said flatly. “He’s the guy other team’s hitters gear up for. He’s the guy our staff revolves around.”
By the time he’s introduced in Kansas City today, Hernandez will almost certainly have driven at least one fellow All-Star – Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre – to the brink of madness.
“The All-Star Game is a lot of fun,” Felix said. “I’ll mess with Adrian because I always do. We always have something going.”
Former teammates in Seattle, Hernandez and Beltre will yell at each other during games when they face one another; mock rages that are hilarious once it’s made clear they aren’t serious.
“Adrian loves to hit me, and I love to get him out,” Felix said. “I get him out more than he hits me. And I mess with him off the field. If I can get a locker next to him at the All-Star Game, it will make him crazy.”
Aside from tormenting Beltre, what is it about the All-Star experience Hernandez loves?
“My first year I enjoyed being there, standing in the outfield during batting practice, talking to guys like Mariano Rivera. The second time, there were a lot more Latin players and that was even more fun – more guys who spoke your language.
“I love talking to other players at the All-Star Game about baseball, about life, just getting to know them.”
On-the-field memories are limited to 2009, his first All-Star Game, when he worked a 1-2-3 inning. He was 23 years old.
“I pitched one inning, three hitters. I faced Orlando Hudson, Albert Pujols and I don’t remember the third guy. (It was Justin Upton). That’s crazy, but it was over so fast,” he said.
Today he knows it’s unlikely he’ll face National League batters.
“If they need me, I’ll pitch,” he said. “If they don’t, that’s OK too. It would be tough.”
Still, being an All-Star has its perks. Felix is accompanied by wife Sandra and their children, Mia and Abraham. The kids will wear an All-Star jerseys Hernandez had made for them.
When the game ends, Felix said his thoughts will return to business in Seattle.
“I’ll be ready to pitch the first day of the second half. That’s my priority,” he said.
Would he like to be an All-Star every year the rest of his career?
“That sounds pretty good. I’d like that. It means I have to keep working harder to get better every year too.”email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue