OAKLAND -- Felix Hernandez would like to pitch for Venezuela in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which means the Mariners ace could miss a good chunk of Spring Training next year.
Hernandez said Sunday he's talked with the Mariners about playing in the tournament, just as he did in 2009 when Venezuela advanced to the semifinals on March 21 before he joined the club. That year, the regular season started on April 6 and Hernandez went on to pitch one of his best seasons for Seattle, going 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA.
He's already begun formulating an offseason training plan with Mariners trainer Rick Griffin to get ready for the earlier start. The 2013 WBC will run from March 2-19. Mariners camp typically opens with pitchers and catchers reporting in mid-February, with the first regular season game on April 1.
"I've been talking about that with Rick," Hernandez said. "I want to play. I played in 2009 and it was a great experience. I started working out a little early that year, but it was a great experience, and I want to be part of that."
Manager Eric Wedge said the WBC is a "personal choice" for players, and the club will work with those who want to play.
Ichiro Suzuki played for the champion Japan team in 2009, as did current Mariners Munenori Kawasaki and Hisashi Iwakuma. Ichiro now is with the Yankees and Kawasaki and Iwakuma will be free agents, so it's not certain they'll be back with Seattle.
Rookie pitcher Erasmo Ramirez is interested in playing for Nicaragua, and outfielder Michael Saunders said he'd welcome an invitation from Team Canada, which recently clinched a berth.
"I haven't been approached yet, but if I'm offered the opportunity it would be a great honor," Saunders said. "I had a chance to play in the Olympics, but during the '09 WBC I'd had shoulder surgery and couldn't play, and in '06 I was too young.
"I love representing my country, and it's always been a lot of fun," said Saunders. "Canadians are a tight fraternity. We all know each other and root for each other. So I'd love to play. But obviously I have to make sure I'm ready for the season next year before I'm representing my country. I'm a Mariner first."