A new beginning or a soon-to-be-forgotten coda to a great career? No one knows yet, but next month former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star Félix Hernández will break camp with the Atlanta Braves. He signed a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp the with club yesterday.
King Félix endured his third straight below league average season in 2019, and last year was particularly ghastly for him on the mound, posting a 6.40 ERA in 15 starts. While he’s still only 33, Hernández came up for good at 19 and was a full-time starter at 20, so there are a lot of miles on that elbow, that shoulder, and those legs. Smart money would not have him returning to his old form or anything particularly close to it in the future. Smart money may even be laid on the idea that he’s, frankly, done as a pitcher.
But he’ll get one more crack at it at least, as he’ll try to make a Braves club which seems to have a good number of pitchers who stand a much, much better chance than he does of landing on the big league staff. Still. Hernández is a legend, and you take a no-risk chance on a legend if you have the opportunity to do so.
Whether that chance turns out to be a memorable, late-career mini renaissance or the baseball equivalent of Johnny Unitas playing for the San Diego Chargers remains to be seen.
Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said this morning that Chris Sale won’t be ready for the start of the season. He’ll begin the year on the injured list.
The reason is not, Roenicke says, his rehabbed elbow directly. It’s that he’s been sidelined with pneumonia and is thus a couple of weeks behind in his preparation. Roenicke, as paraphrased by Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe, said that it was “unfair” to give sale “just four starts” this spring.
Which, as Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot observes, is kind of strange because Sale’s last four spring trainings have consisted of three, five, four and two starts, respectively, yet he has been deemed ready to go each year. Pouliot also notes that, if he was truly only a couple of weeks behind, as Roenicke says, he’d be ramped up to about four innings per outing or so by the time the bell rings as opposed to six, maybe, and that that’s not an unusual level of stamina for a starter in this day and age given the changes in bullpen usage. Ideal for Sale? Maybe not, but not the sort of thing one would expect to result in an IL stint to start the year.
An overabundance of caution informed by the fact that, well, the Red Sox aren’t intending to compete this year? A change in philosophy under the Red Sox’ interim new manager? Or is there something going on with Sale’s health at the moment?