After his first five starts in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform, it’s pretty clear that starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez isn’t the same pitcher he once was. Not in name, and certainly not when it comes to what he’ll give you on the mound.
Hernandez, who was previously known as Fausto Carmona before questions about his age arose in 2012, doesn’t have the same stuff he used to. Once an All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, those days are long behind him. Prior to his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night during the Phillies’ 5-4 loss, Hernandez had surrendered 13 earned runs is just over 20 innings pitched.
His most recent outing wasn’t much different. Against the Diamondbacks, Hernandez gave up four earned runs en route to earning the loss. So how much longer can manager Ryne Sandberg feel content with having a washed up 33-year-old has-been in his starting rotation?
With the recent return of Cole Hamels, Hernandez is now the Phillies’ No. 5 starter. Kyle Kendrick, who is the team’s No. 4 starter, has pitched considerably better than Hernandez despite what his numbers might indicate. Yet no matter how much Hernandez is struggling, or how imperative it might be for them to upgrade his spot in the rotation, there’s really not much the organization can do right now.
The ideal replacement would be Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but he’s been sidelined since Spring Training with a shoulder injury. Even when he was healthy, Gonzalez apparently didn’t look as advertised in his first spring with the organization.
If the Phillies are smart, they should bring up David Buchanan from triple-A. In five starts with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Buchanan is 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA. He’s battling some control issues right now, but he was impressive during Spring Training and has a very good second pitch to go along with a mid-90s fastball.
At the very least, Buchanan deserves the opportunity to supplant Hernandez if both players keep at it the way they are. If Philadelphia expects to contend, starting pitching needs to be the team’s strength — and having Hernandez around isn’t indicative of that.