Here’s a full transcript of Jack Zduriencik’s announcement that Felix Hernandez will not pitch Sunday, with followup questions (I’ll have Felix’s reaction shortly; I’ll just say now that he took it well, with good humor and perspective).
“We will not pitch Felix Hernandez. The decision is he’s had a phenomenal year, pitched a terrific season. He leads the league in several category. At the age of 24, we feel as we move forward in this organization, he’s the center piece of what we’re doing. He’s certainly in our opinion the best pitcher in the league. I wish the circumstances were different. We had a nice discussion today, sat him down and talked with him. I talked to the whole major-league staff as well. The last game of the season, with what he’s done, we’d like him to just prepare for next year as we move forward and focus on the things that are ahead of us.”
On how close was the decision: “It’s tough, because you know how competitive he is. He wants to pitch. He’s earned a right to pitch, but I asked him to respect our decision. He has to understand it’s in his long-term best interests and the organziation’s best interests. The chances of anything happening are minimal. We realize that. He’s been so phenomenal the last two years. But I think when you look at the innings last year, the innings this year, realize he’s No. 1 in innings pitched…By not pitching Sunday, he’ll still be No. 1 in the league. It’s a decision in his long-term best interest, and that’s at the forefront here.”
On Hernandez’s best interests being the No. 1 determinant: “Without a doubt. Of course. Again, we feel he’s the No. 1 pitcher in the league, and he’s 24 years of age. Sometimes people overlook that. Could he do it? Of course he could do it. It’s a precautionary move more than anything else. We wanted to let him know today so he could enjoy the next few days here and be prepared when we get to spring training.”
On Hernandez’s reaction: “Very respectful. He’s competitive. I told him, you don’t ever have to think this is a case where you let your club down. That’s not the case at all. This is what I’d like you to understand where we’re it with this. He understood completely. He said he trusts, and I thought it was important he said that. He said I trust your decision, and I understand how you reached this decision. I would like to pitch.
“I said I understand there are some things at stake here, but if you can’t look at what this guy has done up to this point, and realize he’s qualified for every accolade he could possible receive, another five or six or seven innings is not going to make a difference, I don’t think. At the end of the day, I think it’s a decision that’s in his best interests, the organization’s best interests, but more than anything else, again, he’s 24 years of age and he leads the league in innings pitched. That’s enough said.”
On Hernandez’s season: “Tremendous. I don’t know what you could say more about Felix Hernandez. This winter we reached out in a partnership with him and agreed to keep him here a number of years, extended a long-term contract. He was agreeable to stay here. He knows what he means to this city, this franchise. You look at what he did this year. It’s incredible. Again, he’s a very young man. To accomplish what he’s done…you go in the other dugout and ask them what they think of Felix Hernandez. We hear all the time – he has phenomenal stuff, he’s competitive, he’s a gamer. He’s handled himself with a tremendous amount of class this year. There were times he should be frustrated by the lack of run support. The games are tough sometimes when he goes out and puts his heart and soul on the line and we didn’t score a run for him, or one or two runs. Again, a class young man who’s going to be here a long time. That’s why the decision was made.”
On whether there a number of innings the Mariners had in mind for him this year: “No, I don’t think we had a number. You always look at what he did last year, and you base it on how a season goes. We looked at all those things, did a big chart on stress innings. There will be a point in time that game on Sunday, there will be a whole lot more at stake in the future that’s what at stake in that outing on Sunday. And when that’s the case, hopefully he’ll be our guy on the mound for us. That’s what we’re looking for.”
On whether the Cy Young factored in their decison: ” I look at this way: Right now, he’s leading the league in starts. He’s leading the league in so many different categories. Is one more outing going to make that much of a difference? If you’re a true baseball person and you look at what he’s done this year, is that one extra outing going to mean that much? In my opinion, he should get the Cy Young. He’s earned it regardless of what the won-loss record is. All the other numbers are in his favor. Again, one more start shouldn’t make that much of a difference.”