Phenom is Phenomenal Again

TACOMA, Wash. – After each victory, the Tacoma Rainiers clubhouse is littered with card games, snack plates and a stereo blasting the musical choices of that night's winning pitcher.

On Monday night at Cheney Stadium, the glaring noise from the postgame scene in the locker room was the Latin Hip-Hop sound of one Daddy Yankee.

This could only mean one thing - King Felix was victorious.

Indeed, he was, and in fine fashion, too.

The right-hander spun seven shutout innings at the Memphis Redbirds, allowing just four hits and issuing just two walks, in a 4-0 Rainiers win.

Hernandez picked up his PCL-leading sixth victory and showed no ill-effects from a right ankle injury suffered last Tuesday when a sharply struck ground ball smacked off of the inside of his left ankle.

A happy and relaxed Hernandez downplayed the injury and spoke of his night on the mound with his usual smile and a glowing confidence of his special talents.

"I felt good," said Hernandez. "In the bullpen (session on Friday) it was a little sore, but I came in and did my (treatments) and it felt better. I was (trying) to make a lot of ground balls. Ground ball, ground ball, quick game."

Felix was right. The game flew by in just over two hours, thanks to 10 ground ball outs and just 94 pitches in his seven frames.

"Lots of two-seam," Hernandez said of his relentless attack on the strike zone. "The two-seamer was good tonight."

Hernandez struck out nine Redbird hitters, a season high that took the 19-year-old by surprise.

"Nine strikeouts?" he asked. "I didn't know that. I was looking for a quick game, I wasn't looking for the strikeout, just a quick game, that's all."

Hernandez was in command from the very start, throwing just eight pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning. It didn't hurt that seven of them were strikes, nor did it hurt that none of the nine starters for Memphis had a clue how to hit any of them.

"If I throw my pitches, that's all I can do," said Hernandez of his pitch selection on the night. "I'm confident in my pitches. If I have one pitch that I'm throwing better than the other ones, I'll throw that one more."

Use whatever is working. I guess for a pitcher as good as Hernandez, you can use that philosophy and dominate an entire league.

The King threw to catcher Bryce Terveen for the first time this season, and the veteran backstop had nothing but praise for the prize prospect and sees it as a privilege to be able to catch him.

"With the way Felix was throwing tonight, it was really fun to catch tonight," said Terveen. "I enjoyed myself and it was easy to call the game at times."

But fun doesn't necessarily mean easy, as Terveen found out for seven scoreless innings behind the plate. Is it easy to catch Felix, Bryce?

"No, because he's got great stuff and you have to stay with it," said Terveen. "You have to trust yourself as a catcher because you don't want to take away from his game at any time."

Terveen offered insight on what Hernandez's stuff was looking like from his vantage point.

"His two-seamer was really working tonight," Terveen said. "He got alot of ground balls and that pitch was working for him.

"Everything is plus," said Terveen of the arsenal Hernandez takes to the hill every time out. "It's fun catching him, ya know, it's like playing Nintendo. If you look at the amount of curveballs he throws and when people take them, it's unbelievable, they (hitters) don't even have a chance. He had a good night, again."

Hernandez got some early run support when shortstop Michael Morse drove in Jamal Strong and Abraham Nunez with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. When Strong hit the plate with the first run, the Redbirds were as good as done.

Hernandez did get into a jam in the fourth when Raul Gonzalez drew a one-out walk and Peter Zoccolillo reach on an error by first baseman Aaron Rifkin. Hernandez struck out John Gall looking before Chris Duncan drew a walk to load the bases.

But Hernandez bore down and struck out John Nelson to end the threat.

That's the type of clutch performance that will translate well in the big leagues – a confident swagger on the mound that pushes a pitcher to make big pitches in big situations.

After learning about the young pitcher's accomplishments at such a young age, one might wonder what he might not have, if anything. Cross confidence off the shopping list. This kid has it.

"He's always been confident," said Terveen. "That's not missing. He's making pitches when he has to."

Hernandez improved to 6-3 on the season and lowered his stingy ERA to 2.63 in 51.1 innings of work, with 51 punchouts. The league is hitting just .182 off the Venezuelan phenom.

I think Daddy Yankee said it best when he lyricized a phrase in his hit song "Gasolina."

"Esté preparado para qué viene, pero no espere ser capaz de dirigirlo."

Translation: "Be prepared for what's coming, but don't expect to be capable of handling it."

Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories