GM disputes report on elbow; Felix 'his normal self'

GM disputes report on elbow; Felix 'his normal self'

SEATTLE -- From the start, the Mariners have put the brakes on reports that Felix Hernandez had finalized a seven-year, $175 million contract extension and now a reason may be emerging as to why: ESPN's Buster Olney says there could be concerns with the 26-year-old right-hander's pitching elbow.

But Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said on Sunday that Hernandez has been throwing normally for the last month as he prepares for camp and would be reporting with the rest of the club's pitchers and catchers as expected on Tuesday.

"He's coming down tonight and will be here to get his physical, and we'll get rolling," Zduriencik said from Peoria, Ariz. "I'm not going to comment on any of that other stuff. It's ridiculous. I've watched him at [Safeco Field] for the last month or so throwing, and he's his normal self."

Olney said one source told him the elbow is "an issue" in finalizing the new deal, which was initially reported by numerous media outlets as being agreed upon on Thursday. But the Mariners have said all along that there was no deal yet in place and stuck to their long-held policy of not commenting on ongoing negotiations.

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

The 26-year-old Hernandez withdrew from the World Baseball Classic late last week, telling Venezuela head coach Luis Sojo he would not be able to participate due to the ongoing contract negotiations.

Hernandez also took to Twitter to apologize to Venezuela's fans while asking that they respect his decision and the need to put his family first while working out his contract. He made no mention of health issues.

Hernandez has been one of the most durable pitchers in Major League Baseball since joining the Mariners at age 19. He has pitched 200-plus innings in each of the past five seasons, including 232 or more the last four.

Since 1969, only Bert Blyleven, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden have pitched more innings before the age of 27, with Hernandez at 1,620 1/3 in his eight seasons with Seattle.

Hernandez did struggle down the stretch last season, going 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in his final six starts, but no arm troubles were mentioned and he made all his scheduled starts. The Mariners' ace was one of the American League's premier pitchers most of the year and put together a midseason nine-game win streak that included five shutouts and a perfect game.

Hernandez finished the season 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 232 innings.

Hernandez has two years remaining on his current contract, which will pay him $20 million this coming season and $20.5 million in 2014.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the first to report a new extension, which would erase those last two years and pay Hernandez $25 million a year through 2019, though a baseball source with knowledge of the negotiations immediately said that report was inaccurate.

Wilfredo Polidor, one of Hernandez's representatives with the Octagon agency, told ESPNdesportes.com on Saturday that no agreement had been reached but that "we are moving forward," and he estimated the deal as 70 percent done.

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.