Hernandez helps Royals beat Twins by slim margin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- If Runelvys Hernandez keeps pitching
like this, the fat jokes will vanish quicker than the weight he
dropped to get back to the major leagues.

The right-hander, who was banished to the minors when he
reported to spring training overweight and out of shape, allowed
only two baserunners in seven sharp innings Wednesday night,
leading Kansas City over Minnesota 3-1 in his first start.

Still hefty at around 263 pounds, Hernandez was in command from
start to finish in his first win since last July. He struck out
one, did not walk a batter and refused to take questions about his

"Everybody knows I can pitch here," he said. "I don't take it
personal. It was my fault. Now I want to keep doing my job. I
showed today I'm better. I want to say thank you to all the people
who tried to support me. I'm going to try to be healthy and help my

Fans and talk show hosts had given the 6-foot-1 Hernandez a
merciless ribbing, joking about jelly doughnuts and double bacon
cheeseburgers and wondering why he wasn't "hungry for a win."

"I think when you're in the public eye you unfortunately have
to get that kind of stupidity," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.
"But that's the way it is. You just live with it and move on."

Bell admitted, however, that Hernandez was more effective than
he had dared hope.

"Seven innings, two hits, no walks -- you don't expect that out
of anybody, really, not even a Cy Young winner," he said. "He
looks pretty slim right now, huh?"

The right-hander reported to spring training at 280 pounds, and
the team said he's dropped 17 since. Kansas City decided on March
27 that he should go on the disabled list and report to Triple-A
Omaha for a rehabilitation assignment after he allowed nine runs in
12 innings in spring training with five homers and 10 walks.

He was 1-2 with a 10.67 ERA at Triple-A before the Royals
brought him back this week.

Shannon Stewart singled leading off the game, and Hernandez then
retired 13 straight until Justin Morneau, breaking an 0-for-19
skid, homered in the fifth.

Hernandez, who turns 28 Thursday, missed the 2004 season after
elbow ligament replacement surgery, then was 8-14 with a 5.52 ERA
last year -- not winning a game after July 22.

"He used his breaking ball," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "He had a good changeup, located his fastball. He was ahead
of hitters and forcing the issue."

Elmer Dessens and Ambiorix Burgos completed the four-hitter,
with Burgos getting his second save in three chances.

Scott Baker (1-2) gave up three runs and seven hits in seven
innings, striking out six and walking none.

Mark Grudzielanek tripled leading off the fourth inning and
scored on an infield grounder by Reggie Sanders, who stranded eight
runners Tuesday night when the Royals left 14 on.

Matt Stairs, hitless in nine at-bats this season, had an RBI
double for a 2-1 lead in the sixth and scored on a single by Emil

Hernandez's teammates had been supportive, but not entirely
sympathetic after he came to camp.

"It was his own fault," Stairs said. "He came in overweight
and out of shape. He's worked hard the last seven weeks. But he's
to blame. Maybe it's a learning experience for him. Maybe he
realizes now the big leagues are not easy. You have to work at it
to maintain success."

Game notes
Kansas City 1B Doug Mientkiewicz made a standout play in
the fifth, diving to his right and leaving his feet to stare Torii
Hunter's liner. As the sparse crowd of 9,188 applauded, Hunter
grinned and pointed to his former teammate. ... The Twins are the
first team since the 1951 Boston Red Sox to come from behind in
each of their first eight wins. ... Royals DH Mike Sweeney was
given the night off. ... Kansas City designated RHP Joe Nelson for
assignment to clear a roster spot for Hernandez.