Early yesterday, I started hearing rumblings that Felix Hernandez had failed a physical that he’d taken up in Seattle ahead of agreeing to a five-year contract extension that would pay him an additional $135.5 million starting in 2015. I placed a flurry of phone calls, including one to his agent, Wil Polidor, asking whether this was true. Polidor did not return the call, nor did he reply to text messages.
That alone was disconcerting, because if it wasn’t true that Hernandez had failed a physical — and I was led to believe last week that he’d already taken one — then most people would want to quickly nip that rumor in the bud and put it out. All it takes is a “No way, not true!” and you’re done. Now, Polidor is a busy man. But he’s known to get back in touch with people.
Still, this is the type of rumor you don’t want to put out there for the masses based on a non-returned phone call or text.
But then came this afternon, with ESPN’s Buster Olney putting out a tweet saying that “concern about Felix Hernandez’s elbow” might have impacted his talks about an extension.
Filed to ESPN news desk: Concern about Felix Hernandez’s elbow might affect contract talks about the proposed extension.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 10, 2013
Well, that’s a bit too much smoke added to the growing pile, so I phoned up Jack Zduriencik about 15 minutes ago and asked him point-blank whether Hernandez had failed a physical.
“I’m just not going to comment on that while negotiations are ongoing,” Zduriencik said. “That’s our policy. We don’t comment on any of that stuff.”
Fair enough, although again, that does nothing to put out the fire here. So, I asked Zduriencik whether Hernandez will be down in Peoria this week and whether he has been medically cleared to pitch.
“Oh yeah, he’ll be there,” Zduriencik said.
Zduriencik would not comment any further, other than to note that Tuesday is when all pitchers and catchers report to Peoria for their physicals before taking the field on Wednesday for a workout. He repeated that Hernandez would be among those players, but then would not go into any further details about the state of the pitcher’s health.
Now, we have to be careful here. Because saying somebody “failed a physical” is not the same as that player passing a physical with flying colors, and maybe having something small detected in his elbow. In the end, it all amounts to the same thing if what a team saw is preventing it from signing off on a long-term contract, but there are semantics at play here.
First off, we’re not even 100 percent sure Hernandez took his physical yet, though I was led to believe on Thursday — before any whiff of controversy came up — that it had indeed happened. Remember, in a mid-week conversation I had with Zduriencik, he’d hoped to possibly be in Arizona by week’s end — we assume after a Friday press conference in Seattle to announce the Hernandez deal. But that never happened.
Now, it’s possible Hernandez didn’t take a physical and that something possibly came up about his elbow in verbal conversations. Or maybe team staff had raised previous elbow concerns during the season, especially after Hernandez failed to win a game from late August onward.
We don’t know yet.
All we know is, the contract has not been announced, there have been rumblings since yesterday about Hernandez having some type of physical issue. We know that the pitcher’s agent told a reporter Hernandez will not be participating in the World Baseball Classic as previously planned. And we have this afternoon’s report by Buster Olney mentioning an issue with Hernandez’s elbow. Then, we have Zduriencik declining to comment when asked point-blank whether Hernandez failed a physical or not.
That’s all we know right now. Like I said, we’re trying to do the responsible thing here by going to the principals and avoiding any inflamatory conclusions. But something has clearly hit a snag here and for the past 24 hours, we’ve heard whispers that it was a medical issue.
So, we’ll see what happens from here. All I know is, Hernandez and the Mariners can shut everybody up by having him arrive here on Tuesday, pass any physical he needs to — if, in fact, he does need to — and then take the field on Wednesday and participate fully in all workouts. They could also calm people down if they announce the actual extension that reporters across America were told was effectively a done deal late last week.
Until that happens, we’re left to wonder.