Mariners ace Hernandez on brink of superstardom

Second-place Cy Young finish just the beginning

SEATTLE – Those who work closest with Felix Hernandez insist his runner-up finish for the 2009 American League Cy Young Award is only the beginning.

Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair says Hernandez, who finished a distant second to Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke in Cy Young voting results announced Tuesday, took a major step forward in learning to harness his pitches. Once Hernandez becomes more economical in the number of pitches he throws, Adair said he can post numbers even better than his 19-5 record and 2.49 earned-run average from this past season.

“Felix is going to get better,” Adair said. “We’re excited about it.”

A closer examination of Hernandez’s numbers from the 2009 campaign appears to bear that out.

After a loss to the Angels on May 19 left him 4-3 with a 4.19 ERA, Hernandez had been averaging 15.75 pitches per inning. From that point onward, he averaged 15.0 pitches per frame and his season took off from there.

“He showed a willingness to make some adjustments and just take things a little more serious,” Adair said.

“Greinke deserved it,” Hernandez told The Associated Press from his home in Venezuela. “Before the season was over, I said my vote was for him.”

Hernandez added: “This has taught me that I need to be perfect. I will prepare myself to be stronger next season. I will need a superb year because just a good one, it’s not enough.”

Hernandez’s season was better than merely “good” – his ERA was lower than that registered by any of the previous eight A.L. Cy Young winners.

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