SEATTLE — Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is expected to start spring training as usual this week despite reports Sunday that an elbow issue had delayed his finalizing a contract extension.
The issue was said to have surfaced last week when Hernandez reportedly took a physical ahead of the extension being signed off on. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik declined to comment when asked Sunday about Hernandez possibly having failed his physical, but said the pitcher will be at the team’s Peoria, Ariz., training facility on Tuesday as scheduled.
“Oh yeah, he’ll be there,” Zduriencik said.
Zduriencik added that there is nothing medically preventing Hernandez from taking part in on-field workouts with teammates. He noted that pitchers and catchers are due to take physicals Tuesday, then have their first workout Wednesday and that Hernandez would be going along with the group as usual.
As for the state of Hernandez’s elbow, Zduriencik would not comment further.
“I’m just not going to comment on that while negotiations are ongoing,” Zduriencik said. “That’s our policy. We don’t comment on any of that stuff.”
Rumors about a problem with Hernandez’s physical began percolating on Saturday morning, after the Mariners failed to officially announce a contract extension that had been agreed to two days earlier. Hernandez had also let it be known Friday that he was pulling out of the World Baseball Classic for what he said were family reasons, not a medical issue.
Hernandez’s agent declined to return calls or text messages on Saturday asking whether the pitcher had failed his physical. Then, on Sunday, ESPN columnist Buster Olney quoted a source saying that concerns over Hernandez’s elbow could impact the extension talks.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today — who had broken the initial news Thursday about the extension — followed Sunday by saying the pitcher had been made aware that a problem with his elbow was discovered during the physical. Nightengale later wrote that both sides are trying to work beyond the elbow issue and reach a deal.
That Zduriencik confirmed that extension talks are still ongoing is good news for fans worried that Hernandez might have an immediate injury that could impact his 2013 season. Instead, this would appear to be a case where the team is worried about a potential problem that could flare up later.
Teams can include specific contract language to protect tshem in case a medical condition flares up in the middle of a long-term contract. That was the case when the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia agreed to a long-term extension despite concerns about the pitcher’s knee.
Hernandez missed a month of action early in the 2007 season after experiencing soreness in his elbow during a start against the Minnesota Twins. He also failed to win any of his final six starts last season and went from being a front-runner for the Cy Young Award to finishing fourth in the voting.