Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik informed the media of the team's decision to end Hernandez's season in the dugout prior to Thursday night's opener of the season-ending four-game series against the A's at Safeco Field. Hernandez, who beat the Rangers in Arlington on Tuesday night for his 13th victory of the year, was slated to pitch in the season finale Sunday, but will skip that start and get ready for the offseason and Spring Training in 2011.
"The decision is he's had a phenomenal year, pitched a terrific season for him," Zduriencik said. "He leads the league in several categories. At the age of 24, we feel as we move forward in this organization, he's the centerpiece of what we're doing.
"He's certainly, in our opinion, the best pitcher in the league. I wish the circumstances were different. We had a nice discussion today, sat him down and talked with him. I talked to the whole Major League staff as well. The last game of the season, with what he's done, we'd like him to just prepare for next year as we move forward and focus on the things that are ahead of us."
Hernandez admitted to being disappointed, but said he knew where Zduriencik was coming from.
"I understand what they're trying to do," Hernandez said. "They want me here for five more years, and I understand. I mean, I want to pitch. I just want to pitch. I said, 'You know, Jack, I want to pitch,' but he's the boss. He made the decision.
"I'm healthy, so I want to be healthy for four more years and the rest of my career. That's what he's trying to do is to keep me healthy. It's for next year. I'm not going anywhere. So we just want to be careful."
So Hernandez files his AL Cy Young Award case with the following resume: He finished 13-12 with an AL-low 2.27 ERA, is leading the league in innings with 249 2/3, tied for the Junior Circuit lead in starts (34), leads the Majors with 30 quality starts, leads the AL in strikeouts with 232 and leads the league in opponents batting average (.212).
Over his past 10 starts, since Aug. 10, he was 6-3 with a 0.96 ERA, and he allowed one or fewer earned runs in nine of his past 10 starts. He also threw 209 scoreless innings, the most in the Majors this season and the most since Randy Johnson posted 252 in 1999. Hernandez allowed one or fewer runs in an inning in 236 of 256 innings in which he appeared.
And there's more. In 12 losses, he received seven total runs of support. The Mariners scored one or fewer runs in 10 of his 34 starts and two or fewer 15 times. Seattle did not score a run behind Hernandez in seven of his final 14 starts.
He also went 5-1 with a 0.63 ERA in seven starts against the AL East, including a 3-0 record and a 0.35 ERA in three starts against the New York Yankees.
Hernandez and Zduriencik said they are well aware that a 13-12 record might be tough for some voters to get behind -- especially when Yankees ace CC Sabathia has 21 victories -- but they hope the rest of Hernandez's statistical dominance will get him to the top of the list for the coveted award, even without one last start to possibly pad those numbers.
"Right now, he's leading the league in starts, he's leading the league in so many different categories," Zduriencik said. "Is one more outing going to make that much of a difference? If you're a true baseball person and you look at what he's done this year, is that one extra outing going to mean that much? In my opinion, he should get the Cy Young. He's earned it regardless of what the won-loss record is. All the other numbers are in his favor. Again, one more start shouldn't make that much of a difference."
Hernandez said he agreed with that sentiment and was even able to joke about it. When asked if he thought anything could help him in the Cy race, he immediately said, with a laugh, "It could be better if I throw one more game! But what are we going to do in my next start? I mean, look at my numbers."
The Mariners certainly have and will continue to do so in the offseason as they plan for 2011, with Hernandez once again their most prized possession.
Zduriencik said the decision was still difficult because the team knows how much Hernandez loves to pitch and compete.
"He's earned a right to pitch, but I asked him to respect our decision," Zduriencik said. "He has to understand it's in his long-term best interests and the organization's best interests. The chances of anything happening are minimal. We realize that.
"He's been so phenomenal the last two years. But I think when you look at the innings last year [238 2/3], the innings this year, realize he's No. 1 in innings pitched. By not pitching Sunday, he'll still be No. 1 in the league. It's a decision in his long-term best interest, and that's at the forefront here."
Hernandez said he would take the rest of this week to relax and watch the games before heading into the offseason and then watching in November to see if he wins the AL Cy Young Award. And make no mistake -- he wants it.
"We all want the Cy Young," he said. "Every starting pitcher wants the Cy Young. But it's not in my hands.
"They have to look at all the numbers. Wins is not in my hands. [With] the other numbers I've got, I think I've got a chance."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.