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Hernandez's talent comes to forefront

June 26, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

There are times when you know something, but you try not to believe it.

Call it superstition or avoiding a jinx, but many have problems admitting they are pretty good at something.

Hagerstown Suns pitcher Gabriel Hernandez had a pretty good idea that he's got promise as a pitcher. After all, there had to be a reason the New York Mets selected the 19-year-old right-hander as their third pick in the 2004 amateur draft.

But if Hernandez had any doubts of his ability in his mind, they disappeared on Father's Day.

Hernandez threw a gem June 19, the second no-hitter in the Hagerstown Suns' 25-year history in a crucial 1-0 win over the West Virginia Power.

"It's a big step," Hernandez said. "Now I know what I can do."

Hernandez has done a lot in the first half for the Suns, but a lot of it has gone unnoticed by the casual fan because he hasn't been getting wins.

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Hernandez has left with the lead in the majority of his starts, but has been rewarded with no-decisions because Hagerstown's bullpen has been unable to guard the lead. Hernandez has allowed three runs or less in 12 of 15 starts and one run or less in eight outings.

But the no-hitter was something he was able to start and finish.

In most cases, Hernandez has been a pitch-count casuality. The Mets are monitoring Hernandez closely, trying to keep a firm handle on how many pitches and innings he throws in an effort to protect the young arm they hope will be a cornerstone to their pitching staff for years to come.

But with the blessing of Mets minor-league officials who attended the game, Hernandez had the blessing to finish the game, which lasted 115 pitches. He had thrown 105 pitches in his previous start against Lexington.

"Gaby already has a lot of confidence. ... What he did today, I just can't put into words," Suns pitching coach Shawn Barton said. "This is something special ... something for him to grow on."

Hernandez allowed 20 earned runs in 77 2/3 innings in the first half - good for a 2.32 ERA. He has 81 strikeouts while walking just 27 - a three-to-one ratio - as proof of his control.

Hernandez was at his best in the no-hitter, working the inside of the plate and moving the ball up and down the strike zone, forcing West Virginia to take defensive swings.

Barton said the aggressive pitching followed a plan to feed Power hitters pitches at "different eye levels" to make Hernandez that much more difficult to hit.

"I try to take every game pitch by pitch, hitter by hitter, inning by inning," Hernandez said. "That has worked out the best for me. I just try to throw strikes. If you hit your spots with the pitches, it's not likely that they will get a good solid hit off of you."

Extra rest


Each pitcher in the Suns rotation will miss a start to get extra rest for their arms.

Matt Durkin was the first to sit, giving way to Mike Devaney for his June 18 start.

The moves will put some extra strain on the Suns bullpen, since Rafael Cova, Matt Miramontes and Tim Worthington had starts during the Lakewood series.

Suns spots


There's a very good reason why the Suns are sending eight members - including five players - to Tuesday's South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Augusta, Ga.

They produce ... and more than a 42-28 first-half record indicates.

Dante Brinkley is the starting left fielder because he leads the SAL with a .359 batting average, a .484 on-base percentage and is second with a .631 slugging percentage.

Mike Carp will be starting at first base on the strength of his 16 home runs, second best in the league.

Psomas starts at third base because he leads the SAL with 21 doubles, is second with 36 extra-base hits and fifth with a .579 slugging percentage.

Hernandez is part of the North's pitching staff because he is eighth in the league with a 2.32 ERA and third in strikeouts with 81. And Jose Sanchez leads the SAL with 10 victories.

Milestones


· Birthdays - Derran Watts turns 25 on Tuesday and Carp becomes 19 on Thursday.

· Roster changes - The Mets' organization is tinkering with the Suns' pitching staff, with a number of players moving throughout the system because of the start of the half-season teams.

Jeff Landing was taken from the Suns staff to pitch as the opening-day starter for the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League on Tuesday. Reliever Aristides Almenar is also part of the Cyclones pitching staff.

Meanwhile, Worthington has returned to the Suns after a stint with Port St. Lucie in the Florida State League. He started Friday's game in Lakewood in a spot starting role.

The week ahead


After finishing the quick two-game series with Lexington (Astros) today, the Suns kick back on the three-day South Atlantic League All-Star break. The Suns return to action Thursday with two games at Lakewood (Phillies) before bringing the BlueClaws back to town for a two-game set, beginning Saturday. The Suns will be giving away Uncle Sam bobblehead dolls and will feature fireworks for the Saturday game.

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