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Felix on schedule for spring

Felix Hernandez, M’s are still talking about a new contract. (Associated Press)
Felix Hernandez, M’s are still talking about a new contract. (Associated Press)

But elbow issue looms over contract extension

Felix Hernandez is expected to be on the field with his teammates this week when the Mariners open spring training.

An elbow issue that reportedly surfaced last week when Hernandez took a physical has put off any announcement of a contract extension for the Mariners ace while both sides figure out where to go from here. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik declined to comment when asked Sunday about Hernandez having possibly 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.

Many teams open camp today.

Zduriencik added that there is nothing medically preventing Hernandez from taking part in on-field workouts with his teammates. He noted that pitchers and catchers are due to take physicals on Tuesday, then have their first workout on 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 affect 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 there was a problem with his elbow discovered during the physical. Nightengale later wrote that both sides are trying to work beyond the elbow issue and eventually reach a deal.

That Zduriencik confirmed that extension talks are still ongoing in good news for fans worried that Hernandez might have an immediate injury that could affect his 2013 season. Instead, this would appear to be a case where the team is worried about a potential problem that could flare up down the road.

Teams can include specific contract language to protect them 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.

Around the majors

• Outfielder Scott Hairston and the Chicago Cubs have finalized a two-year contract.

Hairston, 32, hit .263 with a career-high 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and 25 doubles last year in his second season with the New York Mets.

The deal had been agreed to last month pending a physical and was completed Sunday.

• Pitcher Armando Galarraga has agreed to a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds and will try to win a job at spring training.

The 31-year-old right-hander was 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts last year with the Houston Astros.

• All-Star closer Jim Johnson will make $6.5 million and pitcher Jason Hammel will earn $6.75 million under their one-year contracts with the Baltimore Orioles.

In addition, the Orioles were working toward a $5.8 million, two-year contract with Darren O’Day.

Johnson can earn an additional $50,000 in performance bonuses. Hammel can make an extra $300,000 in performance bonuses.

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