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King Felix moving to the bullpen

The Associated Press

HOUSTON — Felix Hernandez vowed Saturday that his first-ever stint in Seattle’s bullpen won’t last long.

“I’ll be a starter before the end of the year,” Hernandez told The Associated Press. “No question about it.”

The struggling Mariners ace has made 398 career starts in 14 seasons, never once pitching in relief. He was bumped from the rotation on Thursday night, the latest setback in a tough year in which he has a career-high 5.73 ERA and is 0-4 in his last five starts.

For the longtime face of this franchise, it was difficult to digest the team’s decision to have him pitch in relief and he said it took him a couple of days to come to terms with it. Conversations with family and friends and encouragement from his wife Sandra, who he has been with since he was 14, helped.

“My wife is here. She flew here,” Hernandez said. “We had a good conversation. And she told me: ‘Just go out there and be the leader that you’ve been all these years. Be you. Be you.'”

And that, Hernandez said, is exactly what he plans to do. Though the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner sees this only as a temporary setback, he’s prepared to embrace his new role for the good of a team that’s in contention to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

“I’m just part of the team and I’m going to do whatever’s possible to help the team,” he said.

The 32-year-old Hernandez is 8-10 with a 5.73 ERA in 23 starts for a Mariners team chasing a playoff spot.

Hernandez, who has the fourth-most starts in MLB history without a relief appearance, has spent two games in the bullpen, but has yet to appear in a game. He shared his first impressions of the experience.

“It’s boring. I’m telling you,” he said with a laugh.

Both nights he’s trotted with closer Edwin Diaz to the bullpen in left-center field at Minute Maid Park, where the Mariners are playing the AL West-leading Astros. Hernandez said he’s picked his brain about relieving, but he’s far from the only one he’s reached out to for advice on the move.

“I’ve been talking with everyone in the bullpen him, Alex Colome, everybody,” he said. “(They said) just go out there and have fun.”

Elsewhere:

n Los Angeles Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani took his next step in a possible return to pitching by throwing a light bullpen session this past weekend. The 24-year-old Japanese star threw 23 pitches, mixing in fastballs, sliders and curveballs. It was the first time he had thrown off a mound since he last pitched in a game, on June 6. It’s uncertain whether the two-way player will pitch again in the majors this season after being sidelined by a sprained right elbow. He was 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts, striking out 61 in 49-plus innings. Ohtani was put on the disabled list on June 8. He has returned to the lineup as a designated hitter for the Angels and done well, batting .273 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs. In his last seven games, he’s batting .360 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

n The Cleveland Indians are putting slugger Edwin Encarnacion on the disabled list because of swelling in his left biceps. Manager Terry Francona made the announcement after the AL Central leaders beat the Chicago White Sox 3-1 on Saturday night. Encarnacion left Friday night’s game and had an MRI in Cleveland on Saturday. Third on the team with 25 homers and second with 81 RBIs, Encarnacion has struggled since being hit on the right hand by Yankees reliever Chad Green before the All-Star break. He has often been swinging with one hand, putting more stress on his upper arms.

n The Los Angeles Dodgers are sending right-handers Kenta Maeda and All-Star Ross Stripling to the bullpen to make room for two starters about to return from the disabled list. Left-hander Alex Wood is scheduled to come off the disabled list and pitch Tuesday against San Francisco. He went on the DL on Aug. 4 with adductor tendinitis. Lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu is healed from a strained groin that has sidelined him since early May. Ryu is expected to be activated and start on Wednesday. The Dodgers are using a closer-by-committee in the bullpen with Kenley Jansen out with an irregular heartbeat.

n The Colorado Rockies held All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado out of the starting lineup for a second straight game because of a sore right shoulder. Pat Valaika filled in at third Sunday as the Rockies closed out a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arenado was removed from Friday’s game in the fifth inning when he tweaked his shoulder on a throw. The five-time Gold Glove winner has been bothered by the shoulder for about a week. Arenado is hitting .307 with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs this season.

n St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver cut his finger while opening a food tray in the clubhouse at Kansas City and was scratched from his start against the Royals on Sunday. The accident occurred Saturday night when the righty sliced the index finger on his pitching hand on the aluminum foil covering a tray. Super glue was applied, but it did not hold sufficiently for Weaver to pitch deep into a game. The 24-year-old Weaver is 6-10 with a 4.66 ERA in 23 starts.

n New York Mets third baseman David Wright played his first game since 2016 on Sunday, going 0 for 3 to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment. Wright struck out twice and flied out for St. Lucie in the Class A Florida State League. The seven-time All-Star played five innings in the field and didn’t get a grounder during a 4-1 loss to Clearwater. The 35-year-old Wright has been beset by back, neck and shoulder trouble in recent seasons.

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