Ducks' Hernandez continues putting up zeros

Rangers No. 18 prospect posts second straight scoreless start

Jonathan Hernandez has 67 strikeouts and 19 walks in 67 1/3 innings across two levels this season. (Hickory Crawdads)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | June 27, 2017 1:09 AM

After his first two tries on the mound in the Carolina League, Jonathan Hernandez sported an unsightly 12.38 ERA, having been tagged for 11 earned runs on 22 hits in eight innings.

Over his last two games, the Rangers' No. 18 prospect wanted to send a statement.

"I feel really excited to be here," Hernandez said Monday night. "I want to do a good job, make everybody see, 'OK, now he's here.'"

Point taken.

Hernandez turned in his second consecutive scoreless start, yielding one hit and one walk with eight strikeouts over seven innings, but Class A Advanced Down East fell to Winston-Salem, 4-2, in 10 innings.


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"I executed the plan that we put together before the game -- me, the pitching coach (Steve Mintz) and the catcher (Chuck Moorman)," Hernandez said. "I pounded the zone with my fastball, using a lot of fastballs. I made them feel uncomfortable using my fastball, pounding the zone with my two-seam.

"My first two outings were bad, not knowing about the league. Now I know a lot, and I'm improving my pitches and using more of my pitches when I need them."

The right-hander retired the first 10 batters before walking No. 9 White Sox prospect Luis Alexander Basabe with one out in the fourth inning. Hernandez bounced back by setting down 11 of the final 12 he faced, surrendering only Johan Cruz's single to lead off the sixth.

"In the South Atlantic League, it's a lot of young guys, and here, it's more mature guys," said Hernandez, who went 2-5 with a 4.86 ERA in nine starts for Class A Hickory before being promoted on June 3. "I'd say 85 percent of guys here are going to swing at [mistake] pitches. When the mistake that you make is you leave the ball high, you're going to pay for it, but in Hickory and the South Atlantic League, sometimes when you miss a pitch, they miss it too.

"Here, when you're behind in the count -- like a 2-0 count -- you need to make a quality pitch to make them feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I get behind in the count, and I'm going with my best pitch of the game."

Hernandez threw 55 of 82 pitches for strikes in matching his longest outing of the season. The Memphis, Tennessee native had familiarity with some of Winston-Salem's hitters from when they were with Kannapolis last year.

"I executed almost the same way I pitched last year," said the 20-year-old, who made three starts against the Intimidators in 2016. "I think it was a good [pitch] selection, making them swing the bat early, make them feel uncomfortable at the plate."

Chicago's No. 10 prospect, Alec Hansen scattered four hits and a walk while striking out five over five shutout innings.

Down East plated a run in the seventh against reliever Ian Hamilton and another in the eighth off Jake Johansenbefore Winston-Salem rallied deadlocked the game in the ninth. Basabe belted a two-run double to right in the 10th to snap the tie. 

"I didn't get the 'W,' but I feel good about the job that I did, and my team, that they had my back," Hernandez said. "They were making good plays behind me. The guys that came in after me did a really good job keeping the game close.

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"It's one day. Tomorrow's another opportunity to come and do a better job."

After his tough introduction to Class A Advanced, Hernandez has surrendered five hits over 13 shutout innings. He's struck out 13 strikeouts while walking three in his last two games. The son of former big leaguer Fernando Hernandez has figured out a formula for success.

"My fastball's my biggest pitch that I have," he said. "When I watch videos and see, 'OK, I need that fastball. I'm doing this, I'm doing that.' Now I can perfect that in my mind. I told my dad that. He helped me a lot and my pitching coach. I talk with them, I see the video, and I show them.

"Next outing, I'm going to keep doing the same things I did in this one and keep going."

Josh Altmann doubled twice for the Wood Ducks. 

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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