Phils add journeyman Hernandez to rotation

Roberto Hernandez, 33, started 24 games for Tampa Bay last season and had a 4.89 ERA. His Phils deal is said to be for $4.5 million. AL MESSERSCHMIDT / Getty Images
Roberto Hernandez, 33, started 24 games for Tampa Bay last season and had a 4.89 ERA. His Phils deal is said to be for $4.5 million. AL MESSERSCHMIDT / Getty Images
Posted: December 14, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - As Ruben Amaro Jr. departed these winter meetings Thursday morning, the Phillies general manager could not name the pitcher he agreed to sign. That pitcher, Roberto Hernandez, has two names. He is three years older than he once claimed to be, and he is the latest fortification to the Phillies' rotation.

The man formerly known as Fausto Carmona could be the only addition to a starting staff that lacks clarity beyond two aces, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Hernandez agreed to a one-year deal, pending a physical, according to a source. The contract is worth a reported $4.5 million.

Amaro expects Hernandez to join Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone and Miguel Gonzalez at the back of the rotation. He balked at exorbitant prices for the best available pitchers and did not wait for the market to unfold.

"I'm not surprised that those 'big names' are out there because the big names for us are probably more names than they are talent," Amaro said. "I would imagine that the prices out there, what some of the pitchers are seeking, I don't think it matches with the level of talent. That's my take on it. But someone is going to pay, I'm sure. We're not targeting those because we don't think it's the right bang for the buck."

The Phillies, suddenly budget-conscious this winter, have about $10 million to spend before reaching their targeted $165 million payroll. But Amaro said any further pitching additions will be on a smaller scale.

"I don't know if we'll be adding another guy," Amaro said. "We've talked a lot internally about some of our options. Pettibone and Ethan Martin will be stretched out in spring training. Hopefully that will create enough depth for us. We're going to try to continue to look for more depth there. The likely signings we would have are probably going to be free-agent invites to create depth in triple A."

Hernandez, 33, started 24 games for Tampa Bay last season and had a 4.89 ERA. The 33-year-old sinkerballer's career ERA is 4.67 in eight seasons. In 2007, when he was 26, he won 19 games for Cleveland and finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting.

The Indians, at the time, thought Hernandez was much younger. He was arrested in January 2012 for falsifying his identity. Hernandez was three years older than he claimed. He was not granted re-entry to the United States until July 2012 and was suspended for three weeks by Major League Baseball for identity fraud.

Amaro, without naming Hernandez, described his acquisition as a "depth guy."

"This is not someone who is going to slide into the top of the rotation," Amaro said. "He's in the bottom of the rotation. But we need some depth. Again, we're trying to get the best bang for our buck. In this marketplace, it's tough because the prices have soared pretty significantly."

The question is who slots behind Hamels and Lee. Amaro said he did not make an offer to 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who signed for two years and $20 million with the Mets.

As it stands, Kendrick is the team's third starter. He had a 4.70 ERA in 30 starts last season. "Who knows if he will step up to be the No. 3?" Amaro said. "Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez could be that guy."

But Gonzalez, as Amaro said days earlier, is a mystery. Even if Gonzalez impresses in spring training, it is unknown whether he can handle an entire season. He has not pitched competitively for months and his experience is limited.

"We just don't know what we're going to get out of him yet," said Amaro, who signed the Cuban pitcher in September. "He's got a great arm. One of the reasons why we wanted to add some depth [is] because if he's not quite ready to take a job in our rotation, we can have him develop."

Rule 5 happenings

The Phillies added a reliever and lost one during Thursday's Rule 5 draft. They selected righty Kevin Munson from Arizona. Seth Rosin, a 25-year-old righthander acquired in the Hunter Pence trade, was picked by the Mets and later traded to the Dodgers.

Rule 5 picks must spend the entire season on the 25-man roster or else they are offered back to their original clubs.

Munson, 24, is a former fourth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft. He pitched at double A and triple A in 2013 with a 4.12 ERA. He has struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings in the minors, and his fastball sits at 93-94 m.p.h.

"We liked his stuff," said Mike Ondo, the Phillies' director of scouting. "We like his arm. It's a big arm. He's a guy to create some depth in our bullpen."

Rosin projected as a future reliever but the Phillies left him unprotected. He started 23 games for double-A Reading and posted a 4.33 ERA with low strikeout totals.


PHILLIES STAFF?

Here is what the Phillies' starting rotation could look like in 2014:

Cole Hamels, LHP

Cliff Lee, LHP

Kyle Kendrick, RHP

Roberto Hernandez, RHP

Jonathan Pettibone, RHP, Ethan Martin, RHP, or Miguel Gonzalez, RHP


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

phillieszone

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