Posted on August 10, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Thursday was a day most in the Seattle Mariners organization thought would never come. The club announced that longtime ace Felix Hernandez has lost his spot in the starting rotation. Amidst a disastrous season for the 32-year old, Hernandez will now be pitching out of the Seattle bullpen.
“He’s done an unbelievable job as a Mariner, and certainly I don’t take any of this lightly,” explained Mariners manager Scott Servais. “But I just think, trying to make the best decisions for the ballclub, and really for Felix at this point, let’s just take a breath, step back, gather yourself.”
The decision comes two days after another disappointing performance from Hernandez. Against the last-place Rangers, Hernandez gave up 11 runs (seven earned) in six innings of work. He walked four and allowed three home runs. In 23 starts this year, Hernandez is 8-10 with a 5.73 ERA. However, things have been even worse for him lately. In his four starts since the all-star break, Hernandez is 0-3 with a 9.16 ERA.
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“I’ve got nothing to say,” Hernandez said Thursday, declining to speak to reporters about the demotion.
As Servais mentioned, this was not a decision that was easy to make. Hernandez has made 398 career starts for the Mariners. He’s won 10 or more games in 10 seasons for the club. Outside of last year’s injury-plagued campaign, this is the first time that Hernandez has struggled over an extended period of time. But Servais said for the sake of the team, the move had to be made.
“I certainly respect him and everything he’s done here throughout his career,” said Servais. “But these things happen, and ultimately it’s about the team. It’s never easy. Hopefully, he takes it the right way. He’ll get a chance to pitch at some point down there, and maybe he can work his way back into the rotation. But we’ll see.”
The Mariners, as a team, find themselves in an extended slump. Earlier in the season, they looked poised to battle the Astros for first place in the AL West until the end of the season. However, they have fallen all the way to third in the division and are now on the outside of the playoff picture.
Seattle is 2.5 games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot in the American League. They have a lot of work to do if they’re going to get back on track and catch the A’s. Right now, they simply can’t afford to keep running Hernandez out every five days with the way he’s performed lately.
The Mariners have not decided who will take the vacant spot in the rotation. The only thing for certain is that at some point Hernandez will make his first career relief appearance. The decision by Servais certainly puts Hernandez at a crossroads. The Mariners would love to see the Hernandez of old to show up and earn back his spot in the rotation. But until further notice, King Felix will now be making his home in the Seattle bullpen.