By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez will not be making his start on Wednesday against the Houston Astros. The Seattle Mariners have decided to push Hernandez’s start back until next week after he felt some stiffness in his side/lower back the day after throwing a flat ground session on Saturday.
“I guess you’d call it maybe a minor oblique strain on the left side if you had to put a label on it,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “But it was more just stiffness, it just felt stiff after throwing.”
Hernandez didn’t seem too concerned.
“I felt a little tight after my flat ground, but it’s nothing serious. I’m just trying to be careful,” he said. “I will pitch. I’m fine.”
Hernandez will play catch today and then throw a flat ground session in St. Louis before any decision about his next start will be made.
“I think we’ll just have to really look closely at how he feels after he throws later in the week,” Wedge said. “I think that’ll be a good indicator for us of where we’re at. He’s been honest with us, which is huge. And he always has been, at least in my time here. We’ll just see how he feels and go from there, we’re not going to take any chances.”
There is some thought from Mariners’ fans about shutting Hernandez down for the remainder of the season since there is little left to play for. He thinks such talk is odd.
“Why would they shut me down?” he said. “I’ve got to go out there and do my best. That’s what I’m trying to do. We’re trying to finish strong. We’re trying to win as many games as we can.”
Wedge respects that mindset.
“You want him to have that mentality, he’s conditioned for it,” Wedge said. “You’ve seen the innings that he’s thrown before because he’s conditioned for it. He’s strong enough to handle it, but if it’s an injury that’s something that takes you away from that. But any competitor wants to finish what he started, anybody that competes the way he competes, you want to finish what you start.”
Brandon Maurer, who was going to replace Taijuan Walker in the rotation after tonight, will make the start in Hernandez’s place.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m ready to give it another go. I just didn’t know when. “
Maurer made the starting rotation out of spring training. He made 10 starts, going 2-8 with a 6.93 ERA before being sent to Class AAA Tacoma. He was recalled in late July and has pitched out of the bullpen as a long reliever. He’s made eight appearances, pitching 201/3 innings with a 6.64 ERA, while earning two more wins.
What will be different this time as a starter?
“I think I will be more comfortable right out of the gate,” he said. “It’s just getting a feel for what pitches to throw in what counts. I’ve kind learned a bit about myself that way, especially with the curve ball and the slider and how to use them differently.”
Maurer has learned more than a bit about the game.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is don’t change anything you’ve done from day one,” he said. “I think I tried make myself a better pitcher coming up here and do different things. You’ve gotta stick with the same stuff. It should play.”
Wedge admits Maurer isn’t the first player to be guilty of that.
“One thing you talk to these guys about is that there’s a reason you got here so go out and do that,” he said. “You don’t need to come up here and change, they’ll let you know. Be yourself when you come up here and when the opposition talks to you a little bit you have to listen.”
Wedge will also talk to Maurer before Wednesday and he has a few things to tell him.
“Carl talked to him last night but I have not had a chance to talk to him but I will,” Wedge said. “I want him to be aggressive, every pitch means something and if things do get a little thick that’s when he’s got to slow it down and still be the same guy he is when things are rolling. That’s what has to happen with him. I think things have dominoed on him a little bit, he needs to be able to slow it down and stop the bleeding.”