PITTSBURGH — It had been a while since left-hander Jose Hernandez pitched in a game for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Rule-5 pick was thrown into the fire on Tuesday night.
It had been since Apr. 17 that Hernandez last pitched in a game. Manager Derek Shelton opted to call Hernandez’s name to face the 2-3-4 hitters in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup since they all were left-handers.
Oh, and by the way, Hernandez would faced his former team as the Pirates took him in the Rule 5 draft from the Dodgers’ organization this winter.
Hernandez passed his test with flying colors. He induced a groundout to former MVP Freddie Freeman. Trayce Thompson came into the game in replace of Jason Heyward — Hernandez struck him out. He then punched out James Outman for a clean 1-2-3 inning.
“Really excited just for myself to show them that I have the stuff to be in the big leagues, and it happens to pitch against them tonight. But, I’m happy for it,” Hernandez said on facing his former club.
As they only left-hander currently featured in the Pirates’ bullpen, Hernandez could see his name called in more situations like that, and he’s ready for it.
“Always ready, always ready now that I’m the only lefty out there. I have to be mentally or physically ready just in case I get the call to face those lefties or any other situation,” he said.
As a Rule 5 pick, it can be hard to find your footing at the big league level. After all, the 25-year-old Hernandez he reached Double-A for the first time last season. He never pitched above that level until this season.
Through his first seven appearances as a big leaguer, Hernandez has posted an even 1.00 ERA with eight strikeouts through nine innings. He’s also only issued one free pass, which has been big in the eyes of his manager.
“Yeah he’s impressed me a ton. I mean this is a guy that just played at Double-A last year. He throws a ton of strikes and I think that’s what’s really helpful,” Shelton said. “I think when you have Rule 5 guys, sometimes you take them because of their stuff. We took him because of his stuff but he’s thrown strikes his entire career,” he added.
Hernandez’s role will likely grow in importance when considering both that he is the only southpaw available and that he has shown the ability to get outs.
The bright lights of the big leagues haven’t proved to bee too bright for Hernandez, and he’s only just getting started.