Felix Hernandez Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks Due To Lat Strain

Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez is expected to miss four to six weeks after an MRI revealed a Grade 1 lat strain, per Corey Brock of The Athletic (Twitter link).

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The injury to Hernandez comes as the Mariners were on the verge of getting left-hander Wade LeBlanc back into the rotation after a stay in the injured list. Instead, they’ll continue to operate without one member of their season-opening rotation, meaning young righty Erik Swanson could get an extended look in the rotation alongside Yusei Kikuchi, Marco Gonzales and Mike Leake. LeBlanc pitched in a rehab game in Triple-A yesterday and is seemingly close to a return.

Hernandez, 33, is off to an ugly start for the second consecutive season, having pitched to a 6.52 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 2.09 HR/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate. While Hernandez has improved upon last season’s strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates, he’s also been exorbitantly homer-prone so far in 2019.

A full return to form shouldn’t be expected after the struggles he’s endured and the velocity he’s lost in recent seasons, but there’s still reason to believe that Hernandez could turn the tide a bit once he returns this summer. Hernandez’s velocity is up about half mile per hour over last year, and he’s also seen improvements in his swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates. If he can manage to curtail the home run woes a bit, he could perhaps function as a back-of-the-rotation arm over the final few months of the five-year, $135.5MM contract extension he signed back in February 2013.

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