M's notebook: Felix and Freddy fraternize
Like everyone else, Freddy Garcia has watched Felix Hernandez's meteoric ascension into baseball consciousness. The difference is that Garcia...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Like everyone else, Freddy Garcia has watched Felix Hernandez's meteoric ascension into baseball consciousness. The difference is that Garcia can call the 19-year-old on his cellphone and talk to him about it firsthand.
The two met several years ago in Arizona during spring training, before Hernandez's arrival and before Garcia was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
Recently, Garcia said, they've talked on the phone about their families, how they're doing, whatever's going on in their native Venezuela. One topic they don't seem to get around to too much, though.
"We never talk about baseball, I don't know why," Hernandez said in the dugout before last night's game against the White Sox. "We talk about everything else."
Preparing for the game in his own locker room, Garcia asked rhetorically, "What do I need to talk to him about? This kid's special. He can do everything."
While growing up in the city of Valencia, Hernandez watched Garcia on television.
"He's my favorite pitcher," Hernandez said. "My idol."
Last night's Mariners-White Sox game wasn't completed at press time. For results, visit seattletimes.com/sports
That Garcia was Seattle's ace when it was time to sign Hernandez couldn't have been better timing for the Mariners. Garcia became the perfect recruiting tool.
Garcia often talked to minor-leaguers in Peoria, Ariz., during spring training in 2003 and 2004. He said he took Hernandez and other youngsters out to eat after their workouts.
"I heard about him, good arm, threw hard," said Garcia, who will start today against his former club. "I went down a couple times to see him pitch. He had great stuff."
Garcia said Hernandez just needs to "be safe, stay out of trouble and work hard."
"If he stays healthy, he can be really, really good," Garcia said, "the best pitcher from Venezuela."
Ichiro, Mike Morse, Jeremy Reed, Raul Ibanez, Jamal Strong, Yunieksy Betancourt and Willie Bloomquist spent at least half an hour before last night's game receiving some hands-on baserunning instruction from new first-base coach Mike Goff.
"We were trying to reinforce to these guys that right now that the direction on the basepaths is not the way Mike [Hargrove, Mariners manager] would like to have it, the staff would like to have it," said Goff, who joined the club Aug. 13.
Goff, who had been the team's coordinator of minor-league instruction, replaced coach Jeff Newman, who had surgery on a torn Achilles tendon.
Goff talked to the players about positioning themselves on the base, how to get better leads and being aware of certain situations and pitch counts.
"It was everything as far as helping us get better jumps, helping us to break up more double plays, helping us to get from first to third with more consistency," Goff elaborated, "some areas that we've been struggling in all year long."
• Ichiro was 0 for 3 and is batting .298, the first time since July 1 he is hitting below .300.
• The Mariners are asking fans to drop off new or used wireless phones and accessories, with proceeds benefiting victims of domestic violence. Drop boxes will be located outside the Safeco Field entrances from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. before Tuesday's game against the Yankees.