It started in January, in the first few hours after Adrian Beltre had signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
“I told him I was going to strike him out, Hernandez told Sportspressnw.com this spring. “All fastballs.
Beltre was up to the challenge.
“I told him I was going to take him deep, Beltre said.
So now the two longtime Mariner teammates and friends meet for the second time. Beltre had one at-bat against Hernandez last year when the third baseman was playing for the Boston Red Sox.
He struck out in his first at-bat in the second game of a doubleheader. Before he had a chance to see Hernandez a second time, Beltre was ejected for complaining about the third strike.
Wednesday afternoon Hernandez makes his second start of the year for Seattle to close out the Mariners first road trip in Texas. Beltre, who has been batting cleanup for a power-laden Rangers team, will get his first prolonged chance to beat up his buddy.
“We call, we text, were always talking, Beltre said. “He knows hes going to get me. I know Im going to get him.
Over time, both will prevail, each in his own way. Maybe both will find their way to the post-season, too. Beltre has been there once. Hernandez has not.
Its that chance to win that is the reason, as much as anything, that Beltre is a Ranger now and not a Mariner. He loved his time in Seattle; he considered re-signing with the team in 2010 and listened when the Mariners called this off-season, although that was more a courtesy on both sides than anything else.
The Rangers, who went to the World Series last year, offered not only a lot of money but a chance to play in October, maybe deep into October.
“There were other ways I could have gone, Beltre said. “Ive accomplished a lot in my career but this team gives me a chance to get to the World Series.
“Ive been in the big leagues 12 years and only played in the playoffs once. That doesnt sit well with me. I dont have a ring, and I want one.
Beltre turned down the four-year deal from the Mariners after his five-year contract with Seattle ran out after the 2009 season to sign with the Red Sox. He found that spending the year in hitter-friendly Fenway Park did wonders for his game. He averaged .321, hit 28 homers and drove in 102 runs.
“Boston is a great place to play, he said. “Youd get to the park and 30 minutes before the game would start the stands would be full. And theyd stay until the last out. You couldnt ask for better fans or for a better experience.
That being said, the Red Soxs push for Beltres services wasnt significant once another Adrian Gonzalez, that is came on the scene. Bostons successful pursuit of the Padres longtime first baseman meant that the field was open for Beltre. The As were a contender for a while, as were the Angels, but the package offered by the Rangers was hard to beat.
Its not just that he got a five-year, $80 million deal with an option for a sixth year. It was more that the Rangers, who have a young and improving pitching staff, a solid lineup and aggressive management, seemed to be a team that could make it deep in the postseason multiple times during Beltres Texas odyssey.
“Its never been about numbers for me, Beltre said. “My numbers are good, but Ive always been about winning. Looking at the players in this clubhouse, I have the feeling that the playoff chances here are very good. And for me, thats the fun of baseball, to be in the playoffs consistently.
Hernandez, who at 24 is seven years younger than Beltre, feels the same way about winning. But he has more time and, apparently, the belief that winning can happen in Seattle.
“Everybody here wants to win, he said. “Were building. I think well get there.
Before that happens, hell have to face Beltre and the Rangers more than a few times.
Hes looking forward to it.