Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Félix Hernández

In honor of the spectacular start he is having (in progress) for the Mariners tonight against the Red Sox, here is some more on one of the best young pitchers in baseball, Félix Hernández.Félix Abraham Hernández (born April 8, 1986 in Valencia, Venezuela) is a baseball starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. He is already considered the Mariners' top pitcher at only 21 years of age. Highly touted as a prospect, he is widely considered to have the potential to turn into one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Hernández throws a fastball that has been clocked as high as 100 mph, along with a curve and a changeup. All three are considered potential strikeout pitches. He also possesses an equally deadly slider that the team rarely allows him to use, out of concern that it might injure his arm.

Hernández has been given the nickname King Felix, a title that matches the moniker of NBA phenom LeBron James. The USS Mariner weblog invented the nickname in July 2003, when Hernández was just starting out in the minor leagues.

Hernández was named the Mariners' minor league pitcher of the year in 2004, a season that also saw him make an appearance in the Futures Game. He started with Inland Empire in the California League, before being promoted to Double-A San Antonio, and finished a combined 14-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 149 1/3 innings pitched.

At the beginning of in 2005, Baseball America listed him as the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball and No. 2 overall behind Delmon Young. Hernández continued his success in 2005 with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 9-4 record with a league-leading 2.25 ERA and 100 strikeouts in just 88 innings. He was selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game but did not participate as he spent a month on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis. He was also named PCL Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.Soon after returning from injury, Hernández was called up to the major leagues by the Mariners. He made his debut on August 4, 2005, in a 3-1 loss in a road game against the Detroit Tigers. At 19 years, 118 days, he was the youngest pitcher to appear in the major leagues since José Rijo in 1984. Hernández earned his first major league win in his next outing on August 9, 2005, pitching eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory at home over the Minnesota Twins.

For his first full year in the major leagues (2006), Hernández arrived in spring training out of shape and had his preparation for the season interrupted by shin splints. He recovered in time to begin the season in the starting rotation, where he sometimes struggled but occasionally showed flashes of the potential that had generated such hype. His achievements included a few more personal milestones. He threw his first career complete game on June 11, beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by a score of 6-2.

Based on his improved condition and a successful spring training, the Mariners indicated that in 2007 they would no longer limit the number of innings Hernández could pitch, Hernández won the honor of being named the team's Opening Day starter. He became the youngest pitcher chosen for this assignment since Dwight Gooden in 1985.


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