Let's admit it, Darwinzon Hernandez has found his true calling

Rob Bradford
September 04, 2019 - 11:48 am

The Red Sox figure to have at least one opening in their starting rotation for 2020. Let's leave Darwinzon Hernandez out of that conversation.

You watch Hernandez pitch, see the results and immediately thoughts of why might be if he did that over six or seven innings every fifth day come to mind. But let's not make this any more complicated than it needs to be. The 22-year-old has found his calling, whether the powers-that-be will officially recognize it or not.

"I like this guy," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora prior to Tuesday night's loss to the Twins. "I like what he’s doing right now. Obviously we’ll talk about it in the offseason but right now, he’s one of the high-leverage relievers on our team. He’s a guy who can get lefties and righties out. He has a good mix and he’s actually enjoying it. He likes it. He’s up to the challenge. He’s durable too. Obviously, you have to be careful because there’s more than this year. This guys is a big part of what we’re trying to do as an organization and be consistent every year and compete for a World Series and he’s part of that."

What Hernandez has been doing has to be one of the top storylines of this season.

In 24 1/3 innings as a relief pitcher, he has struck out 45 big league batters, including all three of the Twins he faced Tuesday night. Since Aug. 12, the lefty has fanned 20 over 11 innings, allowing just one run. Hernandez has become the kind of dominant reliever the Red Sox many believed had to be at the top of their to-do list heading into the offseason.

There's the 97 mph four-seam fastball he throws about 75 percent of the time, and then the slider usually fills out the rest of the repertoire. No need for the curve or changeup, both of which had to be implemented in his days as a starter.

He goes and he throws. It suits him.

"I feel I’ve got my rhythm down and I feel good about my role," Hernandez told WEEI.com. "I would like to start but at the same time, I just want to help the team out. Whatever the team asks me. That’s what they need of me right now, that of a reliever and I’ve really enjoyed my role."

Most everyone wants to start, that's no shock. But there also comes a time where pitchers are defined and make pretty good careers for themselves doing something other than what was initially intended. The Yankees Dellin Betances? He started in 122 minor league games. In the majors? One. It has worked out pretty well for him.

Aroldis Chapman was primarily a starter in Cuba and in his only minor-league season with the Reds before finding his calling in the majors. And the guy just behind the Yankees' closer in the American League save race Cleveland's Brad Hand was a failed starter in Miami and then emerged into a late-inning reliever with the Padres. The list goes on and on and on. It's all just a reminder that when it comes to Hernandez this shouldn't be a square peg in a round hole type of scenario.

The Red Sox have solved one of their concerns going forward -- with Hernandez and Brandon Workman making up an extremely intriguing game-closing, one-two combination. All parties involved should embrace it.

"I’m just here to do my job," Hernandez said. "Obviously, if they give the opportunity to start again, of course, I’ll take that. But if they want me to be just a reliever that’s something I’ll do as well. In the end, I just want to help the team."