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Old 01-25-2007, 10:17 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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Default American League, Prepare to Die!

Big change: Hernandez lean, ready
After losing 20 pounds, Mariners star primed for breakout season

DARRIN BEENE; The News Tribune
Published: January 25th, 2007 01:00 AM

Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez sports a slimmer look Wednesday.

Of all the adjectives used to describe Felix Hernandez last season, “lean” rarely was heard.

The Seattle Mariners pitcher has taken steps – some of them while jogging – to change that in hopes of improving upon last year’s performance. At 226 pounds, he is 20 pounds lighter after a winter of working out and eating better in his native Venezuela.

“If the season were to start tomorrow, I’m ready for the season,” a noticeably slimmer Hernandez said Wednesday at the team’s pre-spring training luncheon at Safeco Field.

Last year Hernandez showed up in Peoria, Ariz., tipping the scales at 246 pounds instead of the 230 the Mariners wanted. The extra weight became an issue when Hernandez developed shin splints and missed the last two weeks of spring training – not exactly the start to the season that manager Mike Hargrove envisioned.

At the end of the year, Hargrove and pitching coach Rafael Chaves stressed to Hernandez (12-14, 4.52 ERA in 2006) that he needed to improve his conditioning if he was to realize his considerable potential.

A program was developed that included exercise and diet. Hernandez, also now sporting shorter hair than last season, said he has been eating more vegetables and fewer fatty foods.

“I’ve been working pretty hard. I’ve been trying to get into the best shape I’ve ever been,” said Hernandez, who admitted that he was not in peak condition at the beginning of last season.

Mariners officials are pleased with his effort.

“He is in great shape,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “He’s been doing all of his exercises, his shoulder work, stomach and core work, his cardio work.”

General manager Bill Bavasi praised not only Hernandez’s physique but his psyche. He said one of the mistakes young players make is to underestimate what they need to do to be a major leaguer. The issue isn’t laziness, Bavasi said, but a lack of experience.

“His heart is in the right place, he just made a mistake and that’s just part of a 19-year-old coming to (big-league) camp,” Bavasi said.

“But you don’t see this guy making a mistake twice. He is so special, this guy. … When I saw him today I was stunned. This guy looks like a guy who is very prepared, very focused.”

Bavasi said Hernandez will be ready to expand his workload, and the Mariners still are trying to come up with a plan to monitor its star pitcher. His innings, which were limited to 191 last season, won’t be as much of a factor as his pitch counts.

Good health remains the team’s top priority – and the only goal Hernandez would share with gathered media Wednesday. Other goals are being established, and new Mariners bench coach John McLaren challenged Hernandez to pitch like his countryman, two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins.

For now, the team is happy with the work Hernandez has done over the past three months.

“He is a leaner, better version,” Hargrove said. “Does that translate into more than 200 innings? We start Feb. 15 and then we’ll find out.”
By far, the best news of the offseason for M's fans.

Average starter...

TOR, I'm-going-to-strike-your-ass-out-four-times starter...

Big, big things are ahead for this guy...good to know he's got his head on straight.
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