The Orioles' biggest free agent signee has his eyes on baseball immortality. Cooperstown is what drives Felix Hernandez at age 34.
"The Hall of Fame. I think I have a shot to go in the Hall of Fame," he said.
The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner and six-time all-star wants to get to 3,000 career strikeouts and 200 career wins. Currently he sits 31 victories and 476 K’s away.
"If I get to those goals I think I’m going to [have a shot at] the Hall of Fame."
Hernandez signed a minor-league deal to join the O’s. He was with Atlanta last spring before opting out because of COVID-19 concerns. Before that he spent 15 seasons with the Mariners becoming one of the best, most dominant and electric pitchers in the game. He tossed the Majors’ most recent perfect game in 2012. Injuries took their toll the last few years but he said he is healthy now.
"I feel really good. My body feels good. My arm feels really, really good. So, I’m just getting here, prepare and go out and compete and do what I need to do to get a spot in the rotation."
Why ink with the Birds?
"The opportunity. It’s a lot of young guys," he said. "I didn’t play last year at all. They give me a chance."
A chance to earn a spot in the rotation and a chance to mentor this young pitching staff.
"There are always things to learn from, if you are a younger player, from a guy like that," said Orioles Manager Brandon Hyde. "So, I’m excited that our younger guys can rub elbows with somebody that has had a lot of success in this game."
"They ask a lot of questions and I’m open too," said Hernandez. "Just to be a mentor and to give them my perspective of the game and my experience."
Between 2012 and 2019 Hernandez earned an average of $24.5 million per season. If the man nicknamed 'King' earns a spot on the Orioles roster he’ll hardly get a Felix’s ransom in baseball bucks. His 2021 major league contract is worth $1 million.