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May 25, 2007 at 9:49 PM

Hernandez more ticked than hurt

Turns out all the back stiffness Felix Hernandez felt was from watching his hitters lay a thrashing on the Kansas City Royals. Too much sitting around while Seattle smacked a season-high seven doubles and nine extra base hits in a 10-2 win. Not to mention another terrific catch by Ichiro in right center. Looked like he sprinted half a football field to make that grab. The baserunner was halfway to third and had to scamper all the way back to first.
My answer is still no.
Anyway, Hernandez is fine. Feels good. Hargrove’s worry-meter, on his “scale of one to 10” is at a 1.5, according to him. It was at an eight for Horacio Ramirez yesterday so this isn’t something to lose sleep over.
“He was up in the strike zone a lot so I just sent Chavey out there to get him back into rhythm,” Hargrove said of pitching coach Rafael Chaves. “When he motioned me out there my heart stopped along with everybody elses.”
But it turned out to be nothing serious. Until Hernandez refused to come out of the game for precautionary reasons. The conversation turned animated.
“He started it in Spanish and I ended it in English,” Hargrove said. “Joh even understood it. That’s how fast I ended it.”
Don’t worry, this isn’t a rift. Everyone went away happy. Hargrove likes pitchers who show emotion and Hernandez knows why he came out.
“You saw my emotion,” Hernandez told me when I asked him. “It was that hard.”
Hernandez said he started tiring around the fifth inning. Not so coincidentally, his team had scored three runs and sent seven men to the plate, knocking Royals starter Gil Meche from the game, in the top of the frame. That meant a long pitching change and wait.
“It’s from that one long inning, probably that,” Hernandez said. “But right now, it feels fine. That’s what’s most important.”
Here’s Hernandez’s version of the conversation between him and Chaves on the mound before he was pulled.
FELIX: Chavey, look, I feel a little bit tired. But I can pitch.
CHAVES: No.
FELIX: I can pitch.
CHAVES: No, no. Come on, let’s go.
FELIX: Let me pitch. Let me pitch. I’m fine, let me pitch.
CHAVES: No, no. Come on. You’ve got an eight run lead. Let’s save it for next time.
Hargrove tried to get the ball once and Hernandez sort of walked past him. He then thought better of it and handed the ball over.
Afterwards, Hargrove spoke of how Hernandez had been so much better at keeping the ball down than in last weekend’s loss to San Diego.
“The whole trick at anything you do is letting your talent work for you instead of trying to force it to work for you,” Hargrove said. “And that’s essentially what he was doing there in that last inning tonight. He was trying to force things and it just wasn’t working.”
But it didn’t have to be by that point. The bats had done enough. In a pre-game hitters meeting, the Mariners stressed the importance of a patient approach against Meche, who had beaten them April 28 in Seattle.
“We went out there and we had a plan, collectively as a group,” Raul Ibanez said after clubbing two doubles and scoring three runs. “We discussed a bit about being more patient this time around against him. We got his pitch count up into the 50s early in the fourth inning and I think that might have been a factor.”
The Angels won in New York, so the Mariners remain 4 1/2 games back. Remember when we discussed how anything less than a 5-1 record in Tampa Bay and Kansas City could leave the M’s gaining little or no ground? Well, the M’s are now 3-1 and have gained one game. They’ve gained a half-game on this 3-2 road trip. Two to play before heading to Anaheim. Time to keep the focus high with Jarrod Washburn on the hill tomorrow night. But a good start here.

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