When Cole De Vries was put on the disabled list to start the season, Pedro Hernandez got an opportunity to pitch at the majors earlier than anyone likely expected. Once he got his opportunity to start with the Minnesota Twins, Hernandez ran with it and got off to solid start. By pitching well over his first few appearances, highlighted by his only victory which occurred during a five inning shutout against the Texas Rangers on April 27, Hernandez proved he could be of value on the Twins’ roster and the team decided to keep him around longer than expected. However, over his past two appearances, Hernandez has struggled mightily and his role in the rotation long-term should be called into question.
Hernandez has faced two quality opponents over his last two starts in the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox and in each start, he has given up five and six runs respectively. In his latest start on Wednesday night in Boston, Hernandez couldn’t even make it out of the second inning against a barrage of Red Sox hits that ended his outing prematurely. While it would be fair to give credit where credit is due because both the Red Sox and Indians have very talented lineups, I believe the problem with Hernandez goes beyond the opponent he is facing.
Hernandez’s biggest issue is his location of his pitches over his past few starts. Granted the hitters have turned in a few good at-bats where they hit quality pitches, but Hernandez’s control has not been as precise as it had been during his first few appearances. This is a huge problem for Hernandez because he doesn’t exactly throw hard in the first place and he relies heavily on hitting his spots and getting hitters out with his off-speed stuff. If his control is not sharp, Hernandez’s value as a starting pitcher diminishes greatly.
While this could simply be a string of two bad starts with Hernandez, I still believe that Hernandez is best suited in a long-reliever role in the majors. He could certainly develop into a respectable starter in the majors, but right now I would be cautious with keeping him in the rotation long-term. Do I think Hernandez has a role somewhere on a big-league roster? Absolutely and I think Hernandez has established this with his flexibility to pitch out of the bullpen and work himself out of tough situations during games.
With all of that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hernandez moved to the bullpen when Samuel Deduno or De Vries is fully healthy again. This may have been the plan all along with Hernandez, but he certainly opened some eyes within the organization by pitching so well when he received his promotion.
The last few starts certainly haven’t been Hernandez’s best and his time in the rotation may soon be coming to an end; but if we have learned anything since Hernandez has been called up it is this: he definitely belongs in the majors.