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August 31, 2010 at 11:14 PM

Daren Brown says stressful innings caused him to pull Felix Hernandez after seven

Lots of talk these days about protecting young pitchers, what with the Tommy John ligament transplant surgery coming up for Stephen Strasburg. Felix Hernandez had an elbow problem three years ago and the M’s are keeping a close eye on his workload.
Tonight, he was pulled after only 103 pitches through seven. His last time out, he threw 122 against Boston and then was given an extra day of rest.
But Brown pointed to that bases-loaded, one out jam in the second inning and then another point, in the seventh, in which Hernandez had to escape with a runner on second and one out. If not for those, he said, he might have sent him back out there in the eighth.
“I would consider it,” he said. “I know he’s working in six days’ rest and we did give him the extra day this time. But he did throw 122 his last time out. And in a couple of innings, he’s working hard to get out of the inning.”
They call them “stressful innings” in baseball parlance, though I’m not too sure how stressful these were for Hernandez. Other than the one big inning, he allowed just three hits and six runners all night.
Afterwards, I asked Hernandez how much such innings really impact his arm stress-wise. He told me he doesn’t put much strain on the arm in those moments because it’s too important to make his pitches and avoid overthrowing. Interesting thought.
Not that it matters, because the M’s seem to have decided that anything over 100 pitches is getting into risky territory for their ace. That’s making this whole Cy Young Award thing a little trickier for a pitcher who has to dominate other categories and hope people forget about his 10-10 record.


Cliff Lee still leads Hernandez in complete games by a 7-5 margin, but how many more would Hernandez have if the Mariners let him throw the way most staff aces do.
Hernandez leads the league with 211 1/3 innings pitched and would be much higher than that if he was truly turned loose. C.C. Sabathia is the only guy even close to Hernandez and he’s almost 17 frames behind.
In strikeouts, Hernandez and Jered Weaver are tied at 200.
Don’t even talk to me about Clayton Buchholz and his 2.21 ERA, which Hernandez now trails by 0.17. Buchholz is having a great year, but cannot be in the Cy Young discussion when he’s more than 60 innings and nearly 100 strikeouts behind Hernandez. Case closed on that front.
But other guys, like Sabathia and David Price, are closer to Hernandez in innings and strikouts while piling up far more wins. Hernandez will be in good shape if he can win the “Triple Crown” of innings, strikeouts and ERA. But that’s going to be a little tougher to do if he’s now a 100-pitch starter.
Brown has shown some flexibility, so we’ll see. Yes, the team does have to balance long-term needs with individual prizes. But whatever Hernandez was doing tonight on an extra day’s rest, it sure didn’t look all that stressful.
It looked a little too easy. Maybe that’s just him. He’s having one heck of a year. His ERA for August was 0.82, the best August ever by a Mariner and second-best month ever behind Mark Langston’s 0.50 ERA in September 1988.

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