SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez seemed genuinely happy to have one more particular award added to a season rapidly filling with those.
Hernandez was told early Tuesday that he was the Mariners’ nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award, a prize given to the ballplayer who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field. For several seasons, Hernandez has made hospital visits and done charity work for a variety of local organizations even as his fame grows and demands on his time become more ample.
“I feel really good about it, really good,” Hernandez said before Tuesday night’s game.
Hernandez first heard about the exploits of former Pirates Hall of Famer Clemente – a native of Puerto Rico who died in a 1972 plane crash while attempting to bring relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua – while growing up in Venezuela.
“I knew about him a bit,” Hernandez said. “But obviously, not as much as I do now that I’m here in the major leagues. It’s a big honor.”
Hernandez is looking forward to next season, when the Mariners visit PNC Park in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates. A statue of Clemente sits on stadium grounds and Hernandez plans to pay a visit.
This season, while throwing a perfect game and contending for his second Cy Young Award, Hernandez has still devoted time to frequent hospital visits and the granting of wishes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alaska and Washington. He also has done public service announcements for the Run of Hope to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund.
Hernandez is also involved in the Martinez Foundation and the Humane Society of Seattle/King County. He also participated in an offshoot of the Refuse to Abuse Campaign – handled by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence – through a program that teaches coaches how to mentor young male athletes in areas of nonviolence and responsibility.
Three former Mariners – Harold Reynolds in 1991, Jamie Moyer in 2003 and Edgar Martinez in 2004 – have won the Clemente Award. Former Mariners infielder and South Kitsap native Willie Bloomquist is a nominee this year for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Fans can vote through Oct. 14 for any of the 30 team nominees by visiting MLB.com/ClementeAward.
Hector Noesi pitched his way out of the Mariners’ rotation with his outing Monday night. He began the game by surrendering a home run on an 0-2 pitch and was pulled trailing 7-1 in the second inning, having secured only four outs.
Manager Eric Wedge said that rather than have Noesi work a second start as previously planned, he’ll go back to the bullpen for the duration.
“We’ll use him mainly for length in the bullpen and he’ll get other opportunities to pitch,” Wedge said.
Wedge added that Noesi has a variety of things to work on – like focus and pitch execution – when it comes to the intangibles of starting.
“I just want him to have more presence on the mound,” Wedge said. “He’s got to execute pitches and finish hitters off. The ball needs to end up where you want it to end up up here. Otherwise, it gets really bad really quick. The guy has good stuff. If you look at what he has, fundamentally, with his arsenal of pitches, he should be doing better than what he is.”
• The M’s entered play Tuesday having hit home runs in eight consecutive games. They had also homered 19 times in the last 16 home games. They hit only 28 home runs in their first 57 games at Safeco Field.