One bad season is excusable, especially for a pitcher with the King's track record, but Felix Hernandez took another step down from perennial Cy Young contender to high-mileage mid-rotation arm. Previous tales of his velocity-drop were largely overblown, as his average fastball essentially held firm at 92.5 mph (weighted average, two-seam and four-seam) from 2012 to 2015, but the heater legitimately lost some steam last season, checking in at a career-low 91.0 mph. He also endured the first major injury of his career, hitting the DL and pitching just 153 innings after 10 consecutive seasons of 190-plus frames. People have been predicting injury for years due to his incredible workload (2,415 innings and counting), but it wasn't his arm that gave out -- he injured his calf while celebrating a teammate's home run. Expect Hernandez to be priced lower than ever, such that he doesn't have to be an ace to carry value for a fantasy pitching staff.
Hernandez (2-0) pitched six innings of scoreless, one-hit ball in Thursday's 9-2 Cactus League victory over the Giants. He struck out five. Making his first start since returning from the World Baseball Classic, Hernandez thoroughly stymied the Giants, remaining perfect for his first 3.2 innings before Jarrett Parker's grounder to third while Seattle was in a shift made its way to left field for a double. The Mariners ace made 73 pitches overall and looked fully primed for his Opening Day start against the Astros, although he's scheduled for one more trip to the mound in the spring before that game.
Hernandez is expected back in Mariners camp from the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday, Doug Miller of MLB.com reports. King Felix looked to be in midseason form during the WBC while with Team Venezuela, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks over 7.2 innings and generating a stellar 1.17 ERA in his two starts. The Mariners Opening Day starter is scheduled to take the hill in Thursday's Cactus League matchup versus the Giants.
Hernandez tossed five scoreless innings against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. Felix looked Kingly, allowing only three hits without a walk and striking out three on 61 pitches (42 strikes). Hernandez allowed two runs over 2.2 innings in his first WBC outing and three runs in five spring training frames before that. Still, with five strikeouts to one walk in Cactus League action, his command and punchout ability appears to be returning with his leg strength, following calf woes that marred his 2016. His velocity has been OK, if not great, and his changeup looks lethal again. Hernandez could wind up a profitable pick if heavily discounted in mixed leagues.
Hernandez will start Team Venezuela's game against Team USA at the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. Hernandez lasted just 2.2 innings in his first outing of the WBC this year, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk. He'll match up against fellow Mariner Drew Smyly as the star-studded lineups each look to get a leg up in the second round of pool play.
Hernandez lasted just 2.2 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk in Friday's World Baseball Classic loss against Puerto Rico. Hernandez was on a pitch count and wasn't sharp. He needed 51 pitches, including 20 balls, to record just eight outs. Hernandez was touched up for a triple by Eddie Rosario, opening the door for Puerto Rico in the third inning. He was also shaky in his last start with the Mariners in the Cactus League, so it looks like Hernandez will need more time before he's ready for the regular season.