Happy Birthday to the King, Felix Hernandez!
5x All-Star, 2010 Cy Young winner, 2012 perfect game & he's only 29! pic.twitter.com/ah8f71P7zD
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 8, 2015
While with the Mariners, he was dubbed “King Felix.”
He quickly became a beloved member of the franchise while developing into one of MLB’s premier pitchers.
However, Hernandez’s game did not age gracefully.
After a string of unsuccessful seasons, he wasn’t resigned by the organization he played 15 seasons with.
Now, after opting-out of the 2020 season with the Braves, Hernandez is a free agent once again.
Here is a look into his career story and some of the stories surrounding Hernandez today.
A Franchise Icon
Born in Venezuala, Hernandez was signed as an international free agent in 2002.
He was just 16 years old at the time.
Though he was young, Hernandez spent little time developing in the minor leagues.
He quickly rose through the Mariners’ organization, standing out in high-A and Double-A.
This set up his debut as a young, 19-year-old kid for the Mariners in 2005.
He became the youngest pitcher to debut in the majors since José Rijo in 1984.
Hernandez’s youth did not prove to hurt him, as he started 12 games and posted a solid 2.67 ERA.
Putting up these kinds of numbers at such a young age is almost unheard of in baseball.
After he struggled in his sophomore campaign, Hernandez bounced back to post ERAs under four in 2007 and 2008.
This led up to his breakout season in 2009 where he established himself as a true big-league pitcher.
In 34 starts, Hernandez went 1905 with a 2.49 ERA.
He earned his first All-Star appearance and finished second in the Cy Young voting.
The next season was even better.
Though he went just 13-12, he had a league-best 2.27 ERA on his way to winning the Cy Young award.
This started a string of three successful seasons that saw Hernandez post ERAs under 3.5.
His most notable moment in this time was his 2012 perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
— #TodayInSports (@TodayInSports3) August 15, 2020
In 2014, he had arguably the best season of his career.
He went 15-6 while leading the league with a 2.14 ERA and finishing just behind Corey Kluber for the AL Cy Young.
Injuries Lead To Struggles
Following his stellar 2014, Hernandez’s slowly began to decrease.
His ERA jumped each season, eventually going above four for the first time since 2006.
In 2018, Hernandez went 8-14 with a 5.55 ERA.
The next season, he went just 1-8 with an inflated 6.40 ERA.
Over this time, he struggled with different injuries involving his throwing arm.
Most of the time, it involved either inflammation or a strain in his throwing shoulder.
He became a free agent following the 2019 season and signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves.
It was an emotional departure for a player that was the face of the Mariners franchise for so long.
Happy 34th Birthday to the King, Felix Hernandez! 👑
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 8, 2020
However, he elected to opt-out due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Now, he remains a free agent heading into 2021.
In recent days, his name has also been brought up as part of a report that many of the game’s best pitchers used a foreign substance while pitching.
Hernandez Is Active For Community
An active member of the Seattle area, Hernandez has become a representative for different social causes.
He was the Seattle Mariners Ambassador for the Pepsi “Refresh Project.”
This raises money for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Hernandez has also been a representative of the Humane Society of Seattle/King Country.
This groups helps raise awareness for animal abuse and is a place where families can adopt pets.
Throughout his time in the league, Hernandez has been a beloved player.
He plays the game with a joy and flair that has become synonymous with his name.
On top of this, he was one of the best pitchers in the last generation.
The now 34-year-old still hopes to have a spot in the MLB, not wanting to close his career just yet.