SEATTLE (AP) — Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners are closing in on a five-year contract that would avoid arbitration and prevent him from becoming a free agent after the 2011 season, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person confirmed the progress of talks to The Associated Press on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet finished.

Hernandez is due in Seattle on Thursday for a physical needed to finalize the contract, the person said.

Seattle and representatives for the 23-year-old right-hander exchange proposed arbitration figures Tuesday – Hernandez asked for $11.5 million and the Mariners offered $7.2 million. first reported an agreement of unknown length had been reached.

The Mariners began talking to Hernandez’s agents soon after Hernandez finished second in voting for last year’s AL Cy Young Award. Hernandez was 19-5 last year, tied for the most wins in the major leagues, made his first All-Star team and had a career-high 217 strikeouts with a career-low 2.49 ERA.

Hernandez went 15-2 with a 1.98 ERA after Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu called him out for not stepping up during a sloppy loss to the Angels on May 19.

Surging Seattle has made several major moves this winter in an effort to return to the postseason for the first time since 2001: acquiring former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from Philadelphia, signing All-Star third baseman Chone Figgins, trading for outfielder and designated hitter Milton Bradley and re-signing Ken Griffey Jr.

Signing Hernandez to a long-term deal was the Mariners’ first priority. Hernandez and Lee, signed through 2010, give Seattle co-aces atop a rotation.

A five-year deal would leave Hernandez just 28 when he would be eligible for free agency.

The native of Valencia, Venezuela, dubbed “King Felix” soon after he arrived in the major leagues, is 58-41 in 4½ seasons. He has averaged 14 wins and 183 strikeouts in his four full seasons in the big leagues.

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