Darwinzon Hernandez a name to remember as Red Sox begin building bullpen

John Tomase
February 16, 2019 - 5:30 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One by one, the most important arms on the Red Sox hit their spots on Saturday at JetBlue Park.

Eduardo Rodriguez threw under the watchful eye of Pedro Martinez. Postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi exchanged fist bumps with pitching coach Dana LeVangie. Ace Chris Sale, World Series standout David Price, and former Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello worked in a row.

And then there was Darwinzon Hernandez.

The 22-year-old is considered the best healthy pitching prospect in the organization (top prospect Jay Groome is recovering from Tommy John surgery) after going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA at High-A Salem. He followed with a 10-strikeout debut at Double-A before opening eyes with a 1.59 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.

He's in camp as a starter, but the Red Sox won't rule out Hernandez contributing as a reliever before the season is over.

"I said last year, it takes more than 25 guys to win a World Series," Cora said. "It takes a whole organizational effort and at what point in the season, I'm not saying Opening Day or the last day of the season, but at one point they'll contribute. Probably Darwinzon is a guy we do feel like if he doesn't shock the world and surprise everybody here, we'll keep him as a starter, finish his innings and develop all his pitches."

There's a lot to like. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder owns a fastball that reaches the upper-90s, as well as a plus curveball and slider. The Red Sox paired him with their most experienced starters to give him a taste of what to expect from a professionalism standpoint.

"To start the day, they told me I was going to be following those guys, and it was something that honestly excited me, because I look up to, I actually follow those guys," Hernandez said through translator Daveson Perez. "To see how they prepare to throw their sides, how they went about their sides, and everything about their work, was something that's very exciting to me."

After going 3-5 with a 5.19 ERA in his first 15 starts at Salem last year, he went 6-0, 1.29 thereafter, chopping his walk rate from 40 in 59 innings to 20 in 42.

"Honestly, the second half was mostly just listening to my pitching coach about controlling what I could control, going out there and competing, and my teammates as well down there helped me take steps forward," Hernandez said. "Throughout the course of last season, I kind of went through a moment where I realized, I don't have to think about what's going to happen in the future, and I started focusing on the little things I do every day to get closer to that. So that's what I was telling myself so I'd be in a good mind frame moving forward, and at the end of the year, I was very excited with the year I put together, and it meant that what I decided to do was going to work."

Considering the length of a big league season, the Red Sox will need bullpen reinforcements throughout the course of the year. Maybe Hernandez will be one of them.

"If that opportunity presented itself, I'd definitely be willing to do that," Hernandez said. "I just want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity given. Whatever they give me, I'm going to try to do my best at, try to go out there and pitch the best that I can."

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