Mariners, Felix Hernandez getting close to finalizing contract extension

PEORIA, Ariz. — An announcement on a Felix Hernandez contract extension with the Mariners could come as early as today as both sides continued the final stages of negotiations.

The talks on a contract, nearly completed last week, hit a snag when an “elbow issue” surfaced as part of a physical the pitcher took. Sources have said the issue dealt more with wear and tear noticed during an MRI and could signal a possible problem at some point during the length of the deal, though nothing immediate.

Hernandez is to partake in a physical in Peoria today, along with the rest of the team’s pitchers and catchers. His part of the physical will be limited only to areas that weren’t covered by the extensive medical probing he underwent last week.

After that, as long as nothing turns up, Hernandez is medically clear to work out as usual with pitchers and catchers when they first take the field Wednesday. Mariners manager Eric Wedge was at the team’s training facility meeting with his staff Monday and said Hernandez is expected to be ready to go with no on-field limitations.

“We can’t wait to get going,” Wedge said.

A source indicated that an announcement about Hernandez’s contract extension could come before he takes the field Wednesday. The elbow issue has caused the Mariners to seek contractual language in the deal that protects them in the event an injury sidelines Hernandez for any undue length of time.

It is becoming more common for teams to seek such language, given the millions of dollars at stake and the length of contracts being proposed.

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was in Arizona on Monday but remained secluded in his office and did not speak to reporters. The Mariners continue to say there is nothing imminent to be announced regarding Hernandez and have declined to comment on a possible contract extension.

Other Mariners continued to filter into camp Monday, ahead of the physicals and the first full-squad workout on Saturday. Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, second baseman Dustin Ackley and outfielder Casper Wells were among those at the facility.

Wells faces an interesting battle with Jason Bay to retain his spot on the roster. The Mariners are prepared to go with five outfielders and only one full-time backup infielder — Robert Andino — but there is still a numbers crunch where Wells and Bay are concerned.

The team plans to start Franklin Gutierrez in center, Michael Morse and Michael Saunders in either outfield corner and will also be keeping Raul Ibanez on the squad to start the year. That leaves one more spot for either Wells or Bay to make the club.

Wells has an advantage in that he plays all three outfield positions and is out of minor-league options, meaning he’d likely be claimed if the Mariners tried to outright him to Class AAA.