Mariners donÕt want Hernandez to play in WBC

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, December 3, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

The Seattle Mariners say they fully support the World Baseball Classic, a tournament in March that will feature some of the major leagues’ top stars playing for their national teams.

The Mariners are doing a lot of squirming, however, over the status of 19-year-old pitcher Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners see Hernandez as the future of the franchise and don’t want him to play for the Venezuela team. Hernandez wants to play, and so does his baseball-crazed nation.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said the club plans to file an objection if Hernandez is listed on the Venezuela roster.

“We will have to wait and see,” Bavasi said. “We will object to Felix’s participation and he knows that full well. He’s under enormous pressure in Venezuela to pitch, and we understand that. But we object to a 19-year old who’s only been in the big leagues for part of a year and will pitch into his second year at age 19. We have voiced those concerns and will continue to voice those.

“We are confident that nobody at Major League Baseball will have a complete disregard for this young man’s age.”

Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki said last week he would play for Japan and starting pitcher Joel Pineiro plans to play for Puerto Rico.

Bavasi has no problems with those two, even Pineiro despite being a rotation starter whose work is monitored carefully during the spring-training months of February and March.

“Joel is an intelligent guy and he’ll know how to handle himself,” Bavasi said. “He’s at an age where we’re not concerned about him going through that. If Felix were 27 years old, we’d feel the exact same way. But he’s 19.”

The Mariners have experience to accompany their concerns.

Two years ago, prized relief pitcher Rafael Soriano pitched for the Dominican team in the Caribbean World Series and, the Mariners believe, was over-used. Soriano reported for spring training in Arizona and, on a cold morning early in camp, suffered a strained oblique. After rehabbing, Soriano developed elbow problems in the 2004 season that resulted in “Tommy John” surgery, and he hasn’t been completely healthy since.

The Mariners, while saying they support the World Baseball Classic, don’t want a repeat with Hernandez.

“On the whole it will be good for baseball and we support it wholeheartedly,” Bavasi said. “But we still have our concerns. Felix is not the norm, he’s exceptional. It has nothing to do with innings as much as it is innings on top of age.”

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