Seattle Mariners

Mariners decide that Hernandez won’t pitch again until next season

Stiffness in his pitching elbow is one of the contributing factors that led to the Seattle Mariners shutting down starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, right.
Stiffness in his pitching elbow is one of the contributing factors that led to the Seattle Mariners shutting down starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, right. The Associated Press

The King’s Court will remain in recess until next season.

Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon announced Wednesday that ace right-hander Felix Hernandez won’t pitch this weekend when the team concludes its season with three games against Oakland at Safeco Field.

“Felix has given me his heart and soul this year,” McClendon said. “I just don’t want to stress him any more than I have to. This is the right thing to do, much like I did (in shutting down) Taijuan Walker.”

Hernandez, 29, battled elbow stiffness in recent starts but insisted he is healthy and that he wanted to pitch.

“Like I told Lloyd,” Hernandez said, “ ‘I’m fine to go out there to win a ballgame.’ He said, ‘I can’t let you go out there to pitch.’

“I said, ‘Can I pinch hit at least?’ He said, ‘Maybe you will. But you’re not going to pitch.’ I want to do that. I’m going to be bored the last four days. I won’t know what to do.”

The Mariners will start Hisashi Iwakuma, Roenis Elias and Vidal Nuno in their final three games. Hernandez finishes at 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 31 starts.

“I don’t make the decisions here,” Hernandez said. “I want to pitch. They said, ‘We’re not going anywhere,’ so they decided to rest me.

“I understand. We’ve been talking the last few days; been talking to the doctors, and I think that’s why I’m not pitching. I said, ‘OK. Whatever you guys think.’ ”

McClendon’s decision means Hernandez will finish nine strikeouts shy of recording a seventh consecutive season with 200 strikeouts and 200 innings (he has 201 2/3).

Hernandez admitted it was a disappointment to fall short. The major league record is nine seasons in a row by Tom Seaver. The only other pitchers with more than six are Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens.

McClendon admitted it would have “tougher” to shut down Hernandez if the Mariners were playing a postseason contender instead of the Athletics, who have the American League’s worst record.

“You’re talking about the integrity of the game,” McClendon said. “That would be awfully tough to do.”

Hernandez characterized his season as a disappointment.

“One time, I was good,” he said. “Then not good. I had some really bad games this year like I’ve never had before. I gave up 10 runs in Boston. I gave up eight in Houston with (only getting) one out. That’s not me.

“I don’t know how many homers I gave up, but I think I gave up a lot of homers. (He matched a career worst in giving up 23) I was up in the zone. When I made a mistake, they hit it.

“We’ll see what happens next year. I think I’ll be better next year.”

The Mariners open the 2016 season April 4 at Texas.

FINISHING KICK

Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak Wednesday to 13 games, the longest active streak in the majors. He was batting .319 (15 for 47) heading into Wednesday, which lifted his average to .282.

Cano has 27 hitting streaks of 10 or more games in his career, which ranks tied for third among all active players. Two former Mariners head the list: Ichiro Suzuki with 43, and Alex Rodriguez with 28.

Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera also has 27 career streaks of 10 games or longer.

POWERING UP

With four games remaining, the Mariners had 193 home runs, which ranked fifth among American League clubs behind Toronto (223), Houston (221), New York (208) and Baltimore (205).

The Mariners also had 85 homers at Safeco Field.

The overall total ranks sixth in club history and is the most since they hit 198 in 2000. Their home total ranks third in the 15 full seasons they’ve played at Safeco. They hit 92 in 2000 and 88 in 2013.

MINOR DETAILS

The Mariners grabbed the final two slots in Baseball America’s ranking of the Top 20 prospects in the Single-A California League: outfielder Tyler O’Neill at No. 19, and left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough at No. 20.

Both spent most of the season at Bakersfield.

O’Neill, 20, hit 32 homers despite playing just 106 games at Bakersfield. He missed three weeks in July while playing for Canada in the Pan American Games.

The Mariners selected O’Neill in the third round of the 2013 draft. He batted just .260 at Bakersfield but had 87 RBIs and a .558 slugging percentage.

“O’Neill’s struck out at a concerning rate (31 percent),” Baseball America reported, “but his pitch recognition and awareness improved after layoff. Likewise, his bat path to the ball became more direct.

“No-doubt power may end up being O’Neill’s only plus tool, but he can access it to all parts of the yard.”

Yarbrough, 23, missed a month midway through the season because of a groin injury and spent rehab time at Single-A Clinton and in the Arizona Rookie League. He was 4-7 with a 3.76 ERA in 14 starts at Bakersfield.

The Mariners selected Yarbrough in the fourth round of the 2014 draft as a senior at Old Dominion University. He chose not to sign the previous year when picked in the 20th round by Milwaukee.

“Yarbrough throws with a crossfire motion reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner,” Baseball America reported, “and he pounds both sides of the plate with running and sinking fastballs at 88-91 mph.”

LOOKING BACK

It was 11 years ago — Oct.1, 2004 — that Ichiro Suzuki broke the single-season hit record by getting No. 258 in an 8-3 victory over Texas at Safeco Field.

Suzuki got the record in the third inning with a single on ground ball into center against Ryan Drese. It was the second of Suzuki’s three hits in the game.

The previous record of 257, set in 1920, belonged to first baseman George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns.

Suzuki finished the season with 262 hits, which remain the major league record. He also won his second batting title by finishing with a career-high .372 average.

SHORT HOPS

Carson Smith entered Wednesday needing one more strikeout to match the club record of 92 for a rookie reliever, which Enrique Romo set in 1977. … Outfielder Seth Smith turned 33 on Wednesday. … Nelson Cruz had, prior to Wednesday, a club-leading 91 RBIs. But he didn’t have one via a sacrifice fly until Tuesday’s victory over the Astros. … The Mariners got their 31st come-from-behind victory Tuesday when they rallied to beat Houston, 6-4. It was also their 14th victory when they scored the winning runs in their last at-bat. … Lefty swingman Nuno is 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA in four home starts but 0-3 with an 8.72 ERA in five road starts.

ON TAP

The Mariners have an open date Thursday before beginning their final series of the season at 7:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three games against Oakland at Safeco Field.

Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.67 ERA) will make, perhaps, his final start as a Mariner when when he faces Athletics righty Aaron Brooks (2-4, 7.26). Iwakuma will be a free agent after the season.

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

@TNT_Mariners

Consecutive seasons with 200 innings and 200 strikeouts:

9 Tom Seaver, New York Mets (1968-76)

7 Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox (1986-1992)

Walter Johnson, Washington Senators (1910-16)

6 Felix Hernandez, Mariners (2009-14)

Randy Johnson, Mariners/Houston/Arizona (1997-2002)

Bert Blyleven, Minnesota/Texas (1971-76)

Mickey Lolich, Detroit Tigers (1969-74)

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