Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners talks with starting...

Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners talks with starting pitcher Michael Pineda #36 after he was removed from the game in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. (April 12, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

King Felix's future

No, Jack Zduriencik said, the questions about Felix Hernandez don't bother him. Not from other general managers -- you might have heard the Yankees are looking for starting pitching -- not from fans and not from reporters.

"It's not overburdening. It's good copy," the Mariners' general manager said this past week in a telephone interview. "If I were a writer, I'd be debating it, too. It's a very nice topic."

For Zduriencik, however, there really isn't much to debate or discuss at this juncture. Yes, his Mariners occupy last place in the American League West, just as they did last year. But he has no intention to trade Hernandez, the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, who is under contract through 2014.

"As a GM, you have an obligation -- at all times -- to do what's best for your organization," Zduriencik said. "The beautiful thing about Felix is we signed him to a long-term deal. He's the best pitcher in the league. I'm not sitting at the end of the contract where I have a gun to my head."

If you look at the Mariners, you can see reasons to believe they can contend in the not-too-distant future, well before Hernandez's contract expires. Rookie righthander Michel Pineda could have the stuff to line up behind Hernandez as a No. 2, and first baseman Justin Smoak, acquired from Texas last year for Cliff Lee, could be the type of hitter who can lead a team's offense.

Throw in interesting minor-leaguers such as second baseman Dustin Ackley and centerfielder Carlos Peguero, plus the fact that the Mariners will select second overall in the upcoming amateur draft, and that's why Zduriencik said, "I feel very confident about where we're headed."

 

Jack's choice

Speaking of Smoak, all Yankees fans know that Zduriencik, when trading Lee last July, chose a Texas package starring Smoak over a Yankees package starring Jesus Montero. It's natural for fans to compare the two. While Smoak is raking at the big-league level, Montero, following a disappointing spring training, is hitting very well (.400 through Friday) at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barres.

"Not everyone knows the whole story. To me, the conversation from GM to GM is a sacred conversation," Zduriencik said. "The names that were thrown around, I would never go public and say how everything happened.

"Right now, we've got Justin Smoak on our club. [Also from the Lee deal], we've got [reliever] Josh Lueke. We trade Matthew Lawson to Cleveland for [pitcher] Aaron Laffey. That's three pieces on our club right now. The fourth is at Triple-A [Tacoma, pitcher] Blake Beavan."

Laffey is a decent reliever. Lueke and Beavan haven't done much yet. If Smoak attains his potential, though, then the Lee deals -- acquiring him from Philadelphia in December 2009, then dealing him last July -- will have worked out to Seattle's advantage.

 

Frankly speaking

Bud Selig absolutely did the right thing in exacting what amounted to a hostile takeover of the Dodgers this past week. Owner Frank McCourt has embarrassed his team and the industry with his off-the-field antics, even while putting together contending clubs.

However, the commissioner must learn from his mistake of letting McCourt into the exclusive club in the first place. Doubts existed about McCourt's financial solvency from the moment he purchased the team from Fox.

With the Astros for sale, the Dodgers headed for a sale and the Mets facing the possibility of a majority ownership switch sooner rather than later, baseball has to make sure it doesn't solve a short-term problem by planting the seed for a bigger headache.

(Yes, to be fair, other teams have been sold since McCourt's arrival in 2003, and the transitions have been far smoother.)

 

A small group

The Yankees' Lance Pendleton pitched three perfect innings in his major-league debut, April 15 against Texas. According to Major League Baseball, prior to Pendleton joining the club, only six pitchers had thrown three-plus perfect innings in their big-league debuts: Pittsburgh's Jim Nelson in 1970, Toronto's Jimmy Key (the future Yankee) in 1984, Detroit's Felipe Lira in 1995, Kansas City's Steve Stemle in 2005, Detroit's Max Scherzer in 2008 and Milwaukee's Mike McClendon last year.

 

Pop quiz

Name the 1986 Met who plays a member of the Minnesota Twins in the 1994 film "Little Big League."

ANSWER BELOW

 

Early surprises who won't stick

Indians. They simply don't have the pitching to hang around.

Royals. Can't see Jeff Francoeur maintaining his MVP pace.

Angels. Their offense and bullpen figure to present problems.

 

Early disappointments who will rebound

Red Sox. They are already on their way back to relevance.

Rays. Same with Tampa Bay.

White Sox. They're better than they've performed. They'll start hitting.

 

Throwbacks of the week

Did you see the cool "Brooklyn" uniforms the Dodgers wore Thursday? They were the 1944 "night satins." Awesome.

 

Quote of the week

"I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball. My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership."

-- Bud Selig, who took over the Dodgers and gave owner Frank McCourt a smack down.

 

Pop quiz answer

Kevin Elster. Thanks to Joe Saff of Brooklyn for the suggestion.