Felix deal may hit speed bump

Possible elbow issue reportedly has M’s concerned, could require reworking of Hernandez’s pending mega contract

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comFebruary 11, 2013 

This was supposed to be a week of celebration for the Seattle Mariners and their fans.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Peoria, Ariz., on Tuesday. And sometime this week, there was expected to be the announcement of a contract extension for Felix Hernandez that would pay him $175 million over the next seven seasons.

After some of the disappointment surrounding the organization and ownership this offseason, this would have been a moment of positivity.

But Sunday, that optimism was dampened slightly and mild panic began to set in among Mariners fans.

ESPN reported that negotiations between Hernandez’s representation – Octagon – and the Mariners had hit a speed bump amid concerns about Hernandez’s throwing elbow.

A Mariners source confirmed that Hernandez took a physical Thursday in Seattle as part of the contract extension.

During that exam, the Mariners reportedly became concerned about the overall health of Hernandez’s elbow, according to ESPN.

Mariners officials, specifically general manager Jack Zduriencik, are not commenting about the report per club policy to not discuss contract negotiations.

The team did confirm that Hernandez is en route to Peoria. He is scheduled to take his normal spring training reporting physical Tuesday with the rest of the pitchers. And the Mariners expect him to participate in Wednesday’s first workout. He has been on his normal throwing program for the offseason without incident.

As for the elbow issue, Hernandez has proven to be durable in his professional career – one of the main reasons his value is so high. He’s exceeded 200 innings the past five seasons.

In April of 2007, Hernandez left a start early because of tightness in the elbow. The Mariners placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a strained flexor-pronator, which are a bundle of muscles on the inner part of the forearm. He missed two starts.

There has not been any indication of elbow problems since.

Because a pitcher’s delivery is an unnatural motion that places great stress on the elbow and shoulder, most baseball players, not just pitchers, have normal wear and tear on those joints that builds up over time.

But Hernandez has shown no signs of injury or breaking down. In fact, his fastball velocity increased as the season went on last season.

But any damage to the elbow would be a concern to the Mariners, considering how much they are they are planning on investing in Hernandez.

Does this completely submarine the contract extension? Not necessarily.

The Mariners can protect themselves by writing language into the contract to guard against serious injury to Hernandez’s elbow. The Yankees made a similar move with CC Sabathia. Sabathia’s contract has specific language and parameters if he injures his shoulder while throwing that nullifies a vesting option in the final year of the contract.

That may be something the Mariners could be working on as protection. It also could be what is slowing down the extension negotiations.

Hernandez’s agents told a Venezuelan reporter Friday that he would not be participating in the World Baseball Classic this spring because of the ongoing negotiations. There was no mention of the elbow issue, but it seems likely that the Mariners didn’t want to see Hernandez play in the WBC because of their concerns.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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