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.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Farrell defends Sox' shoulder program, but he first raised the issue

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t scream “fake news" on Tuesday,  but he might as well have.

The only problem is he seems to be forgetting his own words, and his reliever’s.

Righty Tyler Thornburg is starting his Red Sox career on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement. 

Another Dave Dombrowski pitching acquisition, another trip to the disabled list. Ho hum.

But the reason Thornburg is hurt, Farrell said, has nothing to do with the Red Sox’ shoulder program -- the same program Farrell referenced when talking about Thornburg earlier this month.

“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

Let’s go back to March 10, when Farrell was asked in his usual pregame session with reporters about Thornburg’s status.

"He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet today," Farrell said that day. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, and whether it's Rick [Porcello], David [Price], guys that come in, and they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there's a period of adaptation they go through, and Tyler’s going through that right now. We're also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that's soon to come in the coming days. Right now it's long toss out to 120 feet.”

So Farrell volunteered, after Thornburg was taken out of game action, that the shoulder program appeared involved. 

Maybe that turned out not to be the case. But Farrell's the one who put this idea out there.

On March 11, Farrell was asked to elaborate about other pitchers who needed adjusting to how the Red Sox do their shoulder program.

“Rick Porcello is an example of that. Joe Kelly,” Farrell said. “And that's not to say that our program is the end-all, be-all, or the model for which everyone should be compared. That's just to say that what we do here might be a little more in-depth based on a conversation with the pitchers, that what they've experienced and what we ask them to do here. And large in part, it's with manual resistance movements on the training table. These are things that are not maybe administered elsewhere, so the body goes through some adaptation to get to that point. 

“So, in other words, a pitcher that might come in here previously, he pitched, he’s got recovery time and he goes and pitches again. There's a lot of work and exercise in between the outings that they may feel a little fatigued early on. But once they get those patterns, and that consistent work, the body adapts to it and their recovery times become much shorter. And it's one of the reasons we've had so much success keeping pitchers healthy and on the field.”

Except that Kelly has had a shoulder impingement in his time with the Red Sox, last April, and so too now does Thornburg.

In quotes that appeared in a March 12 story, Thornburg himself told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he didn’t understand the Red Sox throwing program.

Thornburg said that after the December trade, he was sent a list of exercises from the training staff. The message he did not receive was that all of the exercises were to be performed daily.

“I kind of figured that this is a list of the exercises they incorporated, I didn’t think this is what they do all in one day,” said Thornburg. “I thought, ‘here’s a list of exercises, learn them, pick five or six of them,’ because that was pretty much what we did in Milwaukee.”

But according to Farrell, Thornburg’s current state has nothing to do with the program -- the same one Farrell himself cited when directly asked about Thornburg before.

Maybe the program was the wrong thing to point to originally. But Farrell did point to it.

"This is all still in line with the shoulder fatigue, the shoudler impingement and the subsequent inflammation that he's dealing with. That’s the best I can tell you at this point," Farrell said Tuesday. "Anytime a player, and we've had a number of players come in, when you come into a new organization, there's a period where guys adapt. Could it have been different from what he's done in the past? Sure. But to say it's the root cause, that’s a little false. That’s a lot false, and very short-sighted."

Hey, he started it.

Thornburg is not to throw for a week before a re-evaluation.