Mullen on the Minors: LHP Hernandez gets call to PawSox

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Mullen on the Minors: LHP Hernandez gets call to PawSox

Its highly unlikely any team will keep its Opening Day rotation intact throughout the season. But, consider the case of Triple-A Pawtucket. Pitching coach Rich Sauveur had a six-man Opening Day rotation of Alex Wilson, Russ Ohlendorf, Justin Germano, Aaron Cook, Doug Mathis, and Brandon Duckworth. Today, not one of them is a starting pitcher for Pawtucket. Wilson is working in the PawSox bullpen. Ohlendorf, Germano, and Cook are pitching in the major leagues. And Mathis and Duckworth recently left the organization to pitch in Japan.

Ohlendorf is 3-0 with a 5.16 ERA in eight games (four starts) for the Padres. Germano, currently with the Cubs, is a combined 0-1with a 1.04 ERA in two games for Chicago and Boston. Cook is 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA in six starts for the Sox. In five starts since coming off the disabled list on June 24, Cook has a 2.16 ERA.

Meanwhile, the PawSox are among the International League leaders in ERA, at 3.55, saves (32), WHIP (1.33), strikeouts (799), and holds (43).

The PawSox currently have a rotation that includes Tony Pena, Jr., Billy Buckner, Zach Stewart, and newcomers Nelson Figueroa and Chris Hernandez.

The left-handed Hernandez is the first member of the 2010 Sox draft class to be promoted to Triple-A, despite garnering perhaps fewer headlines than other members of that class such as right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, third baseman Kolbrin Vitek, the Sox first pick that year, and outfielder Bryce Brentz.

In 18 starts, spanning 103 23 innings, with Portland, Hernandez was 4-8 with a 3.13 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 36 walks, for a 5.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio, and 1.67 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Chris has been about as consistent the last few years as anybody we have, said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. Really aggressive strike thrower with a really good ability to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat. So his consistency and overall performance merited getting an opportunity at Triple-A.

Hernandez was the Sox ninth pick in 2010, out the University of Miami, where he went 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 19 games (18 starts). Last season, with High-A Salem, he was 10-7 with a 3.18 ERA in his first full professional season.

We did have a feel that he was pretty advanced, coming from a big program where hed had a lot of success, Crockett said. Then he came in last season and really impressed in spring training. So, certainly were not surprised with the amount of success hes had so far. I think hes done a really nice job maintaining that consistency, both at higher levels as hes progressed as well as through the length of the season.

Hernandez made his first start for Pawtucket Sunday, going six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks with a home run and four strikeouts. He took a no-decision as the PawSox scored a run in the ninth and six in the 12th for the win.

He doesnt throw hard, but he uses his cutter, really relies on his cutter a lot, Sauveur said. He kept the ball down and when he left it up he got hit. But he did a good job. I was happy.

He knows how to pitch, because he doesnt have the greatest stuff. He kind of reminds me of me. I didnt have good stuff but I knew how to pitch and I was able to do it for 18 years. Hes very good. I was very, very pleased with him.

Hernandez is not going to overwhelm anyone with his velocity. His fastball rarely touches 90. His command will be key, said one scout. But the left-hander can impress with his ability to pitch.

He doesnt throw the ball straight, said the scout. He cuts the ball, and sinks it a little bit. He cuts it almost as hard as his regular fastball so its a good complimentary pitch. But, its always going to be about command. Whether he has great command, the jurys still out. But, hes got pretty good command. The way he pitches, his stuff is very complimentary. He changes speeds.

His command is pretty good. He mixes it up pretty good. But when he gets into a jam, he doesnt really have a go-to pitch. Hes going to try to throw a cutter on your hands but if he misses a little bit in the big leagues, boom.

I think hes a rotation guy, or maybe a swing guy. If hes on a staff with a bunch of guys that throw real hard, hes just so different, it could help them. But I think hes a long man, swing guy, fifth starter.

For now, Hernandez is a starter, Crockett said. As with all minor league pitchers, where his big league future might be will depend on the needs of the big league club.

Hernandez is scheduled to make his next start Friday, in the finale of the Pawtuckets four-game series in Indianapolis.

New season, new pitcher, new persona: The evolution of Rick Porcello

New season, new pitcher, new persona: The evolution of Rick Porcello

BOSTON -- Just over a year ago, Rick Porcello made his return from the 15-day disabled list, and the righty's not only been a new pitcher, but a new person at times.

“Pretty Ricky” is still the mild-mannered, well-spoken pitcher off the field, but between the white lines the 27-year-old's unexpectedly shown a gritty side of late.

Part of his alter ego is his sweat-crowned cap that's helped him find a way into Red Sox Nation’s heart by indirectly paying homage to Trot Nixon, one of Boston’s most hard-nosed players in recent history.

“I don’t know how that happens,” Porcello said bewildered by his unsightly, yet lucky hat. “It’s disgusting. Trust me, I don’t even want to put it on.

“I wear the same hat throughout the course of the season if things are going well, and if they’re not I change it out.”

His hat is one of the more glaring changes to the 2016 version of Rick Porcello -- given the contradiction with his nickname. But what’s also come to surface with his Cy Young-caliber pitching is his toughness.

And we’re not talking about his ability to get out of jams -- although that’s been the case too. We’re talking about his frustration every time he gets pulled in the middle of an inning, and, even more so, chirping at opposing players -- like he did Chase Headley, giving some life to the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry that’s been in a lull the last few seasons.

“I’m not really sure why I did it [to Headley] and in Detroit,” Porcello said his recent change in behavior. “I don’t like to be vocal like that. I like to just try to go out there and do my job. That’s really it. I’m not a guy that screams at guys on the mound.

“But I think there are times, when, if you feel strongly about something that’s going on, then you need to speak up instead of just letting it continue. That’s all that was.”

If you haven’t heard Rick Porcello in the postgame interview following his starts, those reactions on the mound aren't something anyone would expect from him. He’s always one to take his time articulating his points in detail -- far from some of the shoot-from-the-hip players Boston’s had in the past.

“I don’t think that’s really indicative of my personality or anything like that,” the righty said on his changing mound presence. “I mean, when I’m between the lines, I’m definitely not trying to make friends with the other team. I’m trying to beat ‘em. That’s really all I care about, is us winning games. If I feel like they’re doing something to alter that -- and it’s not right -- then I’ll say something. But I don’t fell like I’m running around like a hothead just screaming at everybody.

“It’s a little bit different when you’re between the lines and you’re competing. We’re in a race right now. You’re emotions are going to be running high. Certain things at certain levels that you get to on the field you don’t get to in any other aspect in your life. Whether it’s the adrenaline or just the emotion that comes through, those sorts of things. I think a lot of guys when they’re competing and they get into that moment, they turn into a bit of different person or a different animal. That’s all that is.”

The Cy Young candidate also mentioned the recent outbursts were more situation-based, rather than results of playing both Boston’s greatest rival or his old team.

While it’s made his already impressive starts even more entertaining, Porcello doesn’t want his competitiveness to mistaken for disrespect towards the game or his opponents. But he intends to get the message across that he’s not only passionate about winning, but will speak up if he deems it necessary.

“It’s a fine line between being composed and when something goes down then you say what you need to say or you’re just running around like a hothead,” Porcello said. “I definitely don’t want to be the latter. But I’m passionate about what we’re doing and I’m passionate about our team and winning. Anything can happen when you’re out there and those things are at stake.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar

Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

QUOTES

“That one’s one me. I’ve got to do a better job of securing that lead and getting out of that inning.” - Matt Barnes on giving up the lead.

“When he tries to go down and away to right-handers, the ball’s leaking back to the middle a bit. That was the case against [Lorenzo] Cain [and Raul] Mondesi in this case tonight. It’s on the plate first pitch, bases loaded he’s trying to get a strike to get ahead. But in general, Barnes has pitched to the edge at times and missed, and then when he’s on the plate it’s probably found the middle of the plate a bit too much.” - John Farrell on Barnes’ outing.

“I think everybody in that bullpen believes in every single person down there.” - Barnes said on the bullpen.

“It was good, everything was good . . . Just the fastball command was a little out of control.” - Eduardo Rodriguez on his left hamstring and his performance.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz launched his 31st home run of the season, which also marked the 534th of his career, tying Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time home run chart.

* Mookie Betts recorded his Major League-leading 56th multi-hit game of the season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. finished 1-for-2, bumping his average to .317 (77-for-243) at Fenway this season.

* The Red Sox grounded into four double plays, tying their season high on 6/12 against Minnesota.

* Matt Barnes’ ERA jumped from 3.68 before Sunday’s game to 4.45 after giving up 5 runs without recording an out.

 

STARS

1) Raul Mondesi

Mondesi’s bases-clearing triple in the sixth opened the floodgates and gave Kansas City the lead they would continue to build off.

2) Matt Strahm

 Strahm relieved Yordano Ventura after his short 4 and 1/3-inning outing. He held the Red Sox scoreless through 2.2 innings to earn his second win of the season.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez launched his sixth home run in his last eight games against Boston. He became the Royal to homer in three-straight games at Fenway since Billy Butler did in 2011.