By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
CHICAGO — There were no caribou roaming outfield grass or penguins perched on the pitcher’s mound. So maybe it wasn’t that cold, but temperatures at U.S. Cellular Field sure felt arctic on Friday evening.
The thermometer at the park dropped below 40 degrees an hour before batting practice and continued to plummet into the evening.
Players were clad in beanies, parkas and Michael Morse had a ski mask of sorts for during batting practice.
It made Mariners manager Eric Wedge chuckle at the site of his players all bundled up. There would be no beanie for him.
Cold? He managed for years in Cleveland and before that in Buffalo. This isn’t cold.
“This is it right here,” he said. “It’s quite the drastic change. I lived it a lot years. This time of the year, this part of the country, you are going have days like this.”
At first pitch, it was 34 degrees, tying the record for the coldest game-time starting temperature the Mariners had played in since 1988.
“I’m one of those soft Canadians, a west coaster,” Michael Saunders told ROOT’s Brad Adam when asked about Canadians embracing such conditions.
On the serious side, there are inherent risks about playing in such frigid temperatures. The risk of injuries, particularly muscle pulls and strains, increase since players can’t stay loose.
“You just have to utilize the heaters, make sure guys work to stay loose throughout the course of the game, between innings, in their at-bats, whatever it may be,” Wedge said. “Just layer up, which you have to do.”
One of those players that Wedge was concerned about was Franklin Gutierrez, who started in center field. He’s been battling muscle tightness in his hamstrings and cold weather certainly doesn’t help.
“He’s grown to be quite the student of his own body because he’s had so many issues,” Wedge said. “I do trust him to take care of himself. But we’ll do a flyby with a few of these guys and remind them what they need to do and pay attention. you have to stay within yourself on days like today.”
The Mariners relievers were huddled in the bullpen next to the heater, but planned to also be active in between innings to stay loose.
“For me as long as I keep my hands and feet warm, I’m good,” said Charlie Furbush. “You will see us jogging back and forth in the bullpen to keep the blood flowing. As soon as you get cold, it’s hard to get warm again.”
Temperatures should improve today. But there is also a chance for rain.
Hernandez going for 100
When Felix Hernandez steps on the mound today, he will be going for a few personal pitching milestones.
Hernandez will be trying to notch career win number 100 in his career. He is also five strikeouts away from 1,500 in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four players have struck out more hitters before the age of 27 (Hernandez turns 27 on Monday). Bert Blyleven (1,728), Walter Johnson (1,683), Sam McDowell (1,653) and Dwight Gooden (1,541) are all ahead of Hernandez.
Of the pitchers with at least 100 wins and 1,500 strikeouts before age 27, there are only two — Blyleven and Johnson.