Chicago White Sox: Pedro Hernandez
The Chicago White Sox were in a difficult spot on Wednesday.
Not that their 10-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox was inevitable, but that’s what happens sometimes when you’re in a bind like the type of situation the White Sox were forced to confront on Wednesday.
Because of injuries in the starting rotation and reshuffling of pitchers, the White Sox called up Pedro Hernandez to start for them on Wednesday. Not only was Hernandez making his major league debut earlier than the White Sox probably would have liked in his career, he was also asked to do so in historic Fenway Park against a above-average lineup.
The situation certainly could have gone in Hernandez’s favor and allowed for him to experience a fairytale beginning to his career. That didn’t happen, though.
Hernandez was knocked around like a pinball by the Red Sox’s lineup, especially Cody Ross, who had two three-run homers. By the time White Sox manager Robin Ventura came to get Hernandez in the fifth inning, he had allowed 12 hits, three home runs and eight runs.
“It’s just one of those days,” Ventura said afterward. “He’s got good stuff, though. You see pieces of it there, pitches he’s making in other counts, others batters. He’ll grow from it and learn.”
Hernandez will do that learning in Triple-A as he was sent back down to Charlotte after the game. Outside of a keepsake ball from his first pitch, Hernandez won’t have much to fondly remember Wednesday by, but he has tasted the majors now.
The positive for the White Sox is they should be able to avoid another predicament like this unless another injury occurs.
The White Sox’s starting rotation should start resembling what they’ll take into battle for the American League Central over the next few months.
Jose Quintana will start against the Red Sox on Thursday. Chris Sale will match up against the Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Friday. Jake Peavy will start on Saturday and Philip Humber will start on Sunday.
The one uncertainty is still the fifth starter. Ventura could go with Dylan Axelrod or Gavin Floyd when the White Sox return home on Monday. Ventura has said he’d like to utilize Axelrod as his long reliever and spot starter. Floyd could come off the disabled list on Monday if he’s healthy enough.
Hernandez had been recalled earlier on Wednesday and made his major-league debut against the Red Sox in the evening. He allowed 12 hits and eight runs in four innings in a 10-1 loss to the Red Sox.
The White Sox will make a corresponding move prior to Thursday’s game.
Hernandez was 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 14 appearances, including 13 starts, in the minors this season. He was named this season to the Double-A Southern League All-Star team and was promoted to Triple-A on July 6 and had a 3.75 ERA in two starts there. He was acquired by the White Sox as part of the Carlos Quentin trade with the San Diego Padres in 2011.
Hernandez replaces Jhan Marinez, who was optioned on Tuesday.
Hernandez is the 12th rookie and 10th pitcher to appear on the White Sox’s 25-man roster this season.
The fast-talking, straight-to-the-point Don Cooper, who has been with the team since 1988 and has served as pitching coach since 2002, is looking forward to seeing who’s ready to start the season in the bullpen.
“Listen, for the first time in a long time we’ve got three spots open and that’s going to be an interesting thing for the coaches and everybody else to watch and see how that goes,” Cooper said. “It’s also going to be interesting to see these new younger guys who probably won’t be on the team -- some of them -- but to see how they handle major league camp and to have an idea to plot out a course for them so maybe some time later in the year, as well as next year, they’re in Chicago helping us win.”
With so many youngsters to choose from, Cooper said the first nine days of spring training has been about working on each pitcher’s mechanics and pitch command. Come the weekend, the evaluation begins.
“Right now, there’s nobody ahead of anybody else,” Cooper said, “there’s nobody behind anybody else.”
Explaining the trade that sent Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres and yielded minor-league pitchers Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez, Williams seemed to put most of his expectations on Castro.
“Castro, as I was looking at him on tape, Castro reminds me of Jose Contreras when we got him and there were things he was doing [mechanically] that were counter-productive,” Williams said. “There are a lot of similarities and hopefully we can get the most out of him.”
Williams sounded annoyed that he had to reiterate his comparison.
“There are some similarities we see in him that remind us of Jose and some of the issues he has had this past year that he didn’t have before,” Williams said of Castro’s disappointing 7-8 season with a 5.63 ERA at both Double-A and Triple-A. “Sometimes guys get out of whack. This guy is 6-foot-5, throws 90-95 [mph], a lower three-quarter angle and gets around balls but can drop a hard split and he can locate, when he’s right.”
To Williams’ credit, the Contreras comparison isn’t completely off the wall. Castro was the Padres’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2009 and that success continued a year later. In 2010 he was a midseason and postseason Texas League All-Star and pitched in the Futures Game that season.
Last season, though, on a deep staff at Double-A for the Padres, he had mechanical issues. Despite it he still got six starts at Triple-A, but posted an ERA over 10.
“He will be the first to admit that he didn’t distinguish himself among some of his peers,” Williams said. “We have to get him back there. Just one year ago you wouldn’t have been able to get this kind of guy.”
Consider it yet another reclamation project for pitching coach Don Cooper, who was there to help Contreras turn it around.
Nobody really expects Castro to take over the rotation and lead the White Sox to the World Series next season, but he and Hernandez could see time in the big leagues in 2012.
“Castro twice was a top-100 prospect even though he scuffled at times [last season],” Padres GM Josh Byrnes said. “He was still low to mid-90s [mph fastball], slider, change up and a great kid.”
That makes two big-league GMs with high praise for Castro, although Byrnes was the one who just traded away the right-hander.