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Negotiations ongoing, Felix won't pitch in Classic

Mariners reiterate reports of extension premature; ace withdraws from tournament

Negotiations ongoing, Felix won't pitch in Classic play video for Negotiations ongoing, Felix won't pitch in Classic

SEATTLE -- Despite the flood of national reports on Thursday saying Felix Hernandez and the Mariners had agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract, both the Mariners and his agency insisted Friday those reports were incorrect and no deal had been finalized.

Additionally, Hernandez will now skip the World Baseball Classic and not represent his native Venezuela this spring while negotiations on a new deal with the Mariners remain under way.

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"We still have not reached an agreement, but we are moving forward," Wilfredo Polidor of the Octagon agency that represents Hernandez told ESPNdeportes.com. "At this moment, we have covered 70 percent of the road."

The Mariners have said from the start that no deal was yet in place.

"We've been consistent on this," said Tim Hevly, Mariners director of baseball information. "No announcement is planned or imminent."

The Mariners and Hernandez have been pursuing a contract extension over the offseason, and while they appear to be closing in on a new deal, reports of an actual agreement were premature.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Thursday that an anonymous source who was "familiar with the contract details" indicated a deal would be finalized before Spring Training to extend Hernandez's contract through 2019 at an average annual salary of $25 million.

Mariners pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Tuesday in Peoria, Ariz., and Hernandez is expected to be there. But he'll apparently still be operating on the final two seasons of his current contract, which pays him $40.5 million through 2014.

Hernandez, 26, has been with the Mariners his entire career, and both sides have said they're interested in extending that relationship. But clearly there is much to be worked through in a situation that could make Hernandez one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball history.

CC Sabathia of the Yankees currently has the largest overall contract for a pitcher, with a seven-year, $161 million deal he signed before the 2010 season. Zack Greinke signed the highest average annual value deal at $24.5 million with his six-year, $147 million contract in December with the Dodgers.

Hernandez's withdrawal from the World Baseball Classic comes as a surprise, as he told MLB.com last September that he intended to pitch for Venezuela, which he also represented in the '09 Classic. Doing so would cause him to be away from the Mariners for up to three weeks in the middle of Spring Training, however.

Polidor told ESPNdeportes.com that Hernandez called Venezuela manager Luis Sojo with "a lot of pain in his heart" to tell him he wouldn't be pitching in the Classic.

"Even though it's not easy to lose your ace before starting an event, Sojo understands that at this moment Felix is thinking about his future and his family's future," Polidor said.

Hernandez posted a series of messages in Spanish on his Twitter account Friday night apologizing to Venezuela's fans, but asking people to understand and respect his decision, noting he loves his country but has to take care of his family as well.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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