By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — This time when he travels to New York, Felix Hernandez hopefully won’t have to answer the same old questions.
In the past few years, every time the Seattle Mariners would travel to play the Yankees or the Boston Red Sox, the local baseball media would often ask the Mariners’ ace about pitching for those respective organizations.
Obviously any team would want an elite level pitcher like Hernandez on their team, but teams like the Yankees and Red Sox almost expected that he would be theirs sooner rather than later. Either the Mariners would be forced to trade him before he left in free agency or the draw of playing for “winning” organizations that could offer big money would lead him there.
Now those questions won’t need to be asked. The Mariners and Hernandez delivered their own final answer to any possible speculation just before the season when they agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract keeping him in Seattle for the foreseeable future.
To his credit, Hernandez always answered the questions in the past, and often said how much he wanted to stay in Seattle. With the help of one the largest contracts in major league baseball history, Hernandez verified those intentions.
“I didn’t really care,” Hernandez said. “They could still ask me now. It won’t be as much. I’m not even paying attention to that.”
His attention is focused on a Tuesday matchup against the Yankees with fellow Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia on the mound. It’s a marquee pitching matchup.
“That’s a big,” Hernandez said. “That’s a big matchup. I just have to go out there and match him and do whatever I can to win the game.”
Hernandez has pitched well in the new Yankee Stadium. In five starts, he has a 4-1 record with a 1.13 earned run average. In 391/3 innings, he’s struck out 40 batters.
“It should be fun,” he said.
Pryor making progress
Stephen Pryor is making progress on returning to the mound. Of course, the gradual recovery from a strained lattismus dorsi isn’t quite as quick as the hard-throwing reliever would like.
“I’m antsy,” Pryor said. “I’m watching the games every night and I want to get in there.”
Pryor has started throwing this week. He’s played short catch from 45 feet three times.
“I’m kind of testing the waters to see how it feels,” Pryor said. “Then we’ll lengthen it out as far as distance and amount, and I’ll see how I hold up. Then I’ll get on the mound from there.”
The process takes time. But he’s hoping that his return will come soon.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks,” he said.
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is back to baseball activities in his recovery from a strained hamstring. Gutierrez took batting practice on Friday and felt no pain. Today, he will run the bases and increase his activity each day.
“He’s moving around a little more,” Wedge said. “When we go on the road we’ll leave him back and let him continue to work. We’re going to look to have him run the bases tomorrow a little bit and see how that feels. Work early in the week, maybe run the bases again in the middle of the week and then see where we are from there.”