Phillies Notebook: Hernandez settles down after shaky first start of spring

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Roberto Hernandez throws in the first inning against the Yankees. He took a perfect game into the sixth.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Roberto Hernandez throws in the first inning against the Yankees. He took a perfect game into the sixth.
Posted: March 14, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - In his first appearance in a Phillies uniform 2 weeks earlier, Roberto Hernandez served up a trio of near-400 foot batted balls before getting through the Toronto Blue Jays lineup.

The third batter of the game, Jose Bautista, sent a ball into orbit that eventually landed outside Bright House Field for a home run.

Hernandez was hit hard that day. But in the three starts that have followed, the 33-year-old free-agent addition has shown promise for a pitching staff in need of stability.

Hernandez took a perfect game into the sixth inning of a game against a visiting New York Yankees split squad in leading the Phillies to a 6-2 victory yesterday. And his first outing was history.

"That first time, I tried to overthrow, the ball was up," said Hernandez, who has a 2.03 ERA in four spring starts. "After that, I just try to keep the ball down. That's what I want to do, keep the ball down."

Hernandez was efficient in following his "keep the ball down" mantra against a Yankees lineup that included Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro Suzuki. Of the 16 batters he faced, Hernandez got 10 ground-ball outs.

Hernandez stuck with his sinker and it provided results.

"That's his pitch," pitching coach Bob McClure said.

Interestingly, Hernandez got away from his sinker in 2013 and relied on his changeup more than in the past.

According to PITCHf/x data, Hernandez threw his sinker 45 percent of the time last season, down from 2012 (59.4) percent. Meanwhile, his usage of his changeup increased, from 21.4 percent to 30.1 percent.

Hernandez was 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA with Tampa Bay last season; he had a 5.00 ERA in 23 starts before being demoted from the rotation.

With the very real possibility that Cole Hamels will miss all of April with biceps tendinitis and with shoulder injuries to Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez this spring, the Phillies hope Hernandez sticks with the sinker and provides them with a dependable starter at an uncertain bottom half of the rotation.

Hernandez held the Yankees to one hit while striking out two and walking none in five innings. He didn't allow a baserunner until Scott Sizemore's single to open the sixth inning.

Hernandez left the game after the hit and was rewarded with warm applause from the 9,003 in attendance in Clearwater.

"That was the sharpest I had seen him," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It was a nice outing for him."

Gonzalez update

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is unsure when he'll pitch next.

The rookie righthander who entered camp as the international man of mystery, never having thrown a pitch in the United States, has become one of the latest pitchers in camp to have his spring training progress stalled. Gonzalez said he felt pain in the front of his right shoulder while throwing long toss on Tuesday.

"I felt a pinch," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez left camp a day later after a short workout. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he had anterior shoulder soreness, but was checked out by the medical staff and listed as day-to-day.

But Gonzalez said yesterday he wasn't sure when he would get back into a Grapefruit League game. Although he is hopeful to rebound in the final 2 weeks of camp, Gonzalez is a longshot to make the Opening Day roster.

"As long as I'm here, I feel like I have an opportunity," he said. "[The injury] is something out of my control. I feel like as long as I'm still here I have a shot."

Gonzalez, 27, has allowed five runs on six hits and six walks in two Grapefruit League games this spring. He was signed to a 3-year, $12 million deal as a free agent out of Cuba in August.

Phillers

According to pitching coach Bob McClure, Cole Hamels' left arm responded well yesterday following Wednesday's bullpen session - the pitcher's first time throwing off a mound in 11 days. But McClure did not have a date for when Hamels would throw again. Hamels, who entered camp behind schedule and then complained of fatigue last week, is likely to begin the season on the disabled list, but would like to pitch in a Grapefruit League game before the Phillies break camp March 27. Barring a setback, Hamels is likely to throw another 'pen session this weekend . . . A day after hitting a triple in Sarasota against the Orioles, Domonic Brown went 2-for-2 with a walk in the Phillies' 6-2 win over the Yankees. Brown entered play on Wednesday hitting .080 (2-for-25) this spring . . . Although the Phillies entered play Tuesday last among all major league teams in hitting and runs per game this spring, three regulars finished yesterday hitting above .320: Ben Revere (.323), Carlos Ruiz (.333) and Marlon Byrd (.345).


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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