Top Red Sox prospect Darwinzon Hernandez makes tremendous first impression


The Red Sox let Darwinzon Hernandez know how they felt about his future by pairing him with the five members of the starting rotation for one of his first official side sessions of spring training.

With Pedro Martinez in attendance, Hernandez threw immediately after Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez in Fort Myers. Afterwards, manager Alex Cora noted that, "it takes more than 25 guys to win a World Series."

The presumption on that day and throughout camp was that perhaps Hernandez could help this season in the bullpen. But here's another thought. What if he's meant to jolt life into the rotation?

We're obviously a long way from the Red Sox replacing a starter, even though the big five have opened the season 0-7 with a 9.13 ERA. But an injury or extended ineffectiveness could eventually create the need for a spot start, and based on his opening performance at Double A Portland, Hernandez looks like someone who intends to be in the mix.

In Sunday's 6-0 victory over Reading, the 22-year-old left-hander picked up right where he left off last year. He pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out 10 over 74 pitches. He also struck out 10 in six innings over five relief appearances in Portland at the end of last season.

Per the Portland Press Herald, Hernandez hit 96 mph with his fastball and also elicited swings and misses with his a curve, slider, and changeup. Nine of his strikeouts were swinging.

"I loved how he was aggressive with all four pitches," Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott told the paper. "He didn't lose his intensity from the first pitch to the last."

If there was a downside to the performance, Hernandez walked four -- two on four pitches and two on five. This follows a spring that saw him post a 0.82 ERA with 12 strikeouts but also eight walks in 11 innings with the Red Sox.

"The kid is something," manager Joe Oliver told the Press Herald. "He shows you glimpses where he can struggle a little bit. He didn't let (the walks) get to him. He's grown up a little bit the past year."

Will that growth eventually bring him to Fenway Park? He's off to a good start.

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