7:34 PM ET

Associated Press

HOUSTON — Felix Hernandez vowed Saturday that his first-ever stint in Seattle’s bullpen won’t last long.

“I’ll be a starter before the end of the year,” Hernandez told The Associated Press. “No question about it.”

The struggling Mariners ace has made 398 career starts in 14 seasons, never once pitching in relief. He was bumped from the rotation Thursday night, the latest setback in a tough season in which he has a career-high 5.73 ERA and is 0-4 in his past five starts.

For the longtime face of this franchise, it was difficult to digest the team’s decision to have him pitch in relief, and he said it took him a couple of days to come to terms with it. Conversations with family and friends and encouragement from his wife, Sandra, whom he has been with since he was 14, helped.

“My wife is here. She flew here,” Hernandez said. “We had a good conversation. And she told me: ‘Just go out there and be the leader that you’ve been all these years. Be you. Be you.'”

And that, Hernandez said, is exactly what he plans to do. Though the 2010 American

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