As the Arizona Diamondbacks slowly bounce back from an awful start to their spring, the contributions that they’ve received from their bullpen the last few days has been noticeable. After struggling like the rest of their D-Back teammates, the relievers have rebounded the last couple of games–both wins–to allow just 2 runs in 10 innings with 10 strikeouts in those games.
Ziegler, Craig Breslow and closer JJ Putz are all veteran arms that have made a name for themselves in the majors. However, the most dynamic arm in the bullpen belongs to a player that is one of the least recognizable D-Back relievers to the rest of the country. David Hernandez was a talented, unheralded young pitcher who had yet to prove much at the major league level when the D-Backs acquired him after the 2010 season in a deal that sent slugger Mark Reynolds to the Baltimore Orioles.
Hernandez has a dynamic arm and keep hitters off balance with his mid 90s fastball and a low 80s changeup, however as a starter for much of his tenure in Baltimore, he struggled when called upon for more than a few innings at a time. After two seasons with the Orioles, Hernandez was 12-18 with a 4.93 ERA. With the opportunity to deal the disappointing young pitcher to the D-Backs for some much needed offense, the Orioles hopped at the opportunity. However, the change appeared to be just what Hernandez needed. Once Hernandez got to the National League and was placed as a permanent fixture in the Diamondback’s bullpen, he thrived and became an outstanding setup man to Putz.
Amazingly consistent–he didn’t allow a run in 61 of his 74 appearances–Hernandez posted career figures in ERA (3.38), WHIP (1.139) and saves(11)–earned mostly while filling in for Putz in mid-July 2011. Additionally his strikeouts per 9 innings has skyrocketed the last three seasons. Up from 6.0 in 2009 to 10.0 last season. While Hernandez struggled in a starting role in Baltimore, he has proved to be a pitcher that can come in and pitch an inning or two at a time with his best stuff and cool down opposing offenses.
Not yet 27, Hernandez is under club control until the 2016 season. While he has already had a part-time role as the D-Backs closer it’s only a matter of time before Hernandez assumes the role on a permanent basis.
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