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White Sox Thu Jul 19 2012

Sox Rookie Gets Lit Up in Major-League Debut

Pedro Hernandez took the mound for the White Sox Wednesday night at Fenway Park, making his major league debut. In a never-seen-that-before move, A.J. Pierzynski tossed aside the young lefty's first pitch, a called strike to Jacoby Ellsbury, giving Hernandez a memento to treasure forever. The ball will serve as a confirmation that, yes, Pedro Hernandez is a member of the very small percentage of humans who have pitched in the major leagues.

Ellsbury then hit the second pitch of the night for a double off of the Green Monster.

It was a sign of more things to come on the evening. Nothing went right for the South Siders, and they picked up a 10-1 loss. With Detroit's victory, Chicago now only leads the Tigers by 2.5 games in the AL Central.

Though Hernandez, who came to Chicago in the Carlos Quentin trade, showed some fight over the first two innings, the wheels started to come off after Cody Ross's first (yes, first) three-run homer of the game.

The good:

- Well, Hernandez's first pitch was mighty fine.

- The second batter of the game, Carl Crawford, looked clueless at the plate due to Hernandez's stuff. He was retired swinging on an 0-2 slider that was way out of the zone, low and outside.

- Hernandez was to induce some weak pop outs and soft ground balls, so not every ball looked like batting practice.

- The 23-year old Venezuelan was accurate. He fired 87 pitches, and 58 of them were strikes. The only walk the Red Sox got was on the last batter Hernandez faced.

The bad:

- The Red Sox scored eight runs and pounded 12 hits off Hernandez in only four innings, giving him an 18.00 ERA and a WHIP of 3.25 to start the season. Every Red Sox player got a hit, except Mike Aviles, who drew a walk and smashed a long fly ball that just went foul into the stands in left.

- Hernandez was probably too accurate. Since he doesn't have a high-90s fastball or a looping curve, he might need to work opposing batters outside of the zone a little bit more, getting them to chase pitches. If most of his pitches are over the plate, then it's that much easier for the other team to tee off on him, like we saw Wednesday.

- Boston hit Hernandez every way imaginable. They smacked balls back up the middle. They hustled out infield singles on routine grounders. Kelly Shoppach smoked one down the third base line. Adrian Gonzalez pulled an outside cutter to left for an RBI single. Gonzalez and Cody Ross went deep. Oh, did they.

- Cody Ross broke the game open in the bottom of the third. Hernandez allowed the first two runners to get on base with back-to-back singles. To handle the slugging Ross, Hernandez wanted to go in on the batter with a fastball. He left it out over the plate, though, and Ross pulled it down the left field line for a towering home run.

- The biggest at-bat for Hernandez was in the fourth. Ross strode to the plate again with two men on, this time with two outs. With Gonzalez on deck, Hernandez had to get this guy right here for any chance of a Sox win.

His first three pitches were all balls well out of the zone, fastballs out-and-up and low-and-in. Naturally, Hernandez had to be crafty to get Ross out, especially because he doesn't have overpowering stuff. But getting down 3-0 was 100% bad. After a backdoor breaking ball that was generously called a strike, Hernandez put another fastball over the plate, this one slightly to the outside. Ross hit another three-run shot to left, high up on the seats on the Monster. Ballgame.

- It always seemed to me that the easiest out to get in baseball is the batter after a huge, game-changing home run with two outs. The batter always swings first or second pitch, hacking away to end the frame. Gonzalez doesn't subscribe to my theory. The second pitch he saw he raked the opposite way to left for another Red Sox home run. 8-1, now.

- There happens to be another guy with the name Pedro Hernandez who has been in the news lately. Uh, that was a bad omen.

The excuses:

- Hernandez is only 23, he's still a decent prospect, but for 2012 he is pretty low on the list of Sox starters expected to make an impact. It wasn't a horrendous mistake in bringing him up, because at least his Double-A stats were pretty good this season.

- As noted, Hernandez is the Sox' 10th rookie pitcher on the team's 25-man roster. Some guys, like Addison Reed, hit the ground running; for others it might take awhile.

- Any pitcher making his debut at Fenway as a member of the opposing team is likely to struggle.

Ideally, the best move would be to test Hernandez against teams like Oakland and Kansas City, or send him back to the minors. Of course, with the Sox scrambling to patch up their rotation due to injuries, he may have to take his lumps against teams like Texas and Los Angeles, who are coming up on the Sox' schedule. In those games, Hernandez will have to be tough, and he'll really have to hit his spots. Mistake pitches will be eaten up by those lineups.

If Hernandez remains in the rotation at least for one more go-round (Dylan Axelrod was recently demoted to the bullpen), his next opponent will be Minnesota. Those guys, who are largely mediocre on offense, will be a chance to see what Hernandez can do and if he is usable for the rest of the season.

After the Boston beatdown though, he might not even get that chance.

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