Felix Hernandez Ready to Step Into Leadership Role for Mariners
You know, one of the older guys.
The Seattle Mariners have one of those -- except for the "older guy" part.
Felix Hernandez, fresh off his Cy Young Award-winning 2010 season, says now he's ready to step up as a team leader and pitching mentor.
He's all of 24. But if he's a bit on the young side for this kind of responsibility, his shoulders seem to be strong enough to carry the load. He was in the big leagues when he was 19, he was the ace of the staff in Seattle when he was 20, and the last two seasons he's been as good a pitcher as there's been in the game.
After a 101-loss season in 2010, it's clear that the Mariners, who at this time last year had a former Cy Young winner, Cliff Lee, around, need pitching leadership, and Hernandez is ready to step into the void.
"I'm the leader right now," Hernandez said without bragging, and it's not hard to agree with him given some of those who have provided leadership in recent years. "It's something I want to do to help the team."
Seattle rookie right-hander Michael Pineda, who at 22 heads into spring training two weeks from now as the favorite to be the No. 5 man in the rotation, is one who is looking forward to picking Hernandez's brain.
"I'm excited about the chance to talk with him," Pineda says. "I think I'm going to be able to learn a lot from working with him, because I know it's going to be different going from the minor leagues to the majors."
Pineda, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander with a big fastball and nasty slider, will find a ready ear in Hernandez, who has heard the suggestions that Pineda is the Mariners' best young prospect since, well, Hernandez.
Hernandez said when he was at Pineda's stage of development he got help from some of the older hands -- Joel Pineiro, Eddie Guardado and Jeff Nelson among them.
"I want to talk to him," Hernandez said. "There were a lot of guys who made me comfortable. I'd like to do that for him and make sure he keeps working hard."