ST. PETERSBURG -- When Felix Hernandez takes the mound on Tuesday against the Yankees, it'll be his first time facing former Mariners standout Freddy Garcia. And for "The King," facing "The Chief" is a big thing.
Hernandez grew up watching Garcia when his fellow Venezuelan was pitching for Seattle and then befriended him when he signed with the Mariners toward the end of Garcia's time with the team.
"When I signed they brought me to Safeco and he was the first guy I met," Hernandez said. "I was always looking up to Freddy. He was my idol back in the day. He still is. He's always sending me texts like 'Hey man, you need to do this or do that.' He's a great guy."
Hernandez just heard from Garcia, who is nine years older at 35.
"He sent me a text a couple days ago saying, 'Dude, we're going to pitch together,'" Hernandez said. "I said, 'I know.' It's going to be fun. But I've got to do my job, too."
The two never pitched for the Mariners at the same time. Garcia was traded to the White Sox in the middle of the 2004 season. He's now in his 14th year in the Majors, having posted a 149-98 record.
Hernandez was promoted to the Mariners in 2005. He's put up a 93-72 record in eight seasons with Seattle, but never has pitched against his boyhood idol. Until now.