Hernandez Proving His Mettle With River Cats

As a 35th-round draft pick of the A's back in 2006, left-hander Carlos Hernandez has had the odds stacked against him for much of his professional career. But here he finds himself in the postseason rotation of a Triple-A team, a place not many other 35th-rounders can say they've been.

The 5-11 Carlos Hernandez will be one of 23 other River Cats rooting on Travis Banwart in Game Three against Omaha tonight. But his cheers will likely be just a little louder, as a River Cats victory would give him a shot to start Game Four.

"I love the postseason," said Hernandez, who won his start against Reno last Saturday, allowing two earned runs on six hits and striking out four over 5.2 innings.

"I was with Bushy [manager Darren Bush] in Stockton in 2009 and pitched for him in the postseason when we won it all [with Midland]. That's what you dream about when you're younger – pitching in the postseason and winning."

Coming out on the winning end is something Hernandez has been very familiar with in five seasons with the A's organization. He has a minor-league regular season record of 45-20, including an 8-7 mark in his first year at the Triple-A level.

Hernandez opened the season back in Double-A Midland, but a May injury to Oakland starter Tyson Ross started an organizational domino effect which landed him in Sacramento.

It's an opportunity he hasn't taken lightly.

"Since I got here I've been a part of this rotation," he said.

"This is my first actual time in Triple-A and it's been good. If I start again next year here, I could be better. I'm just glad to be a part of this rotation and the organization giving me the chance to pitch at this level."

The diminutive lefty will likely get a repeat shot in Triple-A next season, where he will look to continue developing his four-pitch repertoire.

"I think it's more execution of what I've got," Hernandez said.

"If you throw your off-speed pitches for strikes you're going to do well here. With me, I'm more of a fastball/change-up guy that will work in my sliders and curve balls during counts. Especially with those pitches, they are going to get me deeper into games."

He'll also be more prepared for Triple-A lineups that are often stacked with hitters who have major league service time under their belts.

"A lot of guys have experience up there, with a lot of guys coming up and down from the big leagues," Hernandez said.

"There were a lot of hitters I had never faced before. The strike zone is a little bit smaller, hitters are patient and looking for one pitch which is the fastball. You've got to pitch backwards to them."

Hernandez had an up and down 2011 regular season, posting a 3.65 ERA in a pair of May starts after his promotion, but seeing that mark rise to 5.93 the following month. His best month as a member of the River Cats rotation came in July when he allowed 11 earned runs on 25 hits while striking out 18 over 28 innings.

"It's been up and down," Hernandez said. "Some days I'll be out of it and others when everything will feel good. Later in the season, I've felt great and my velocity is holding steady as my fastball is still sitting between 87 and 91."

Hernandez got clearance from the A's organization to play winter ball and recently signed to play in Culicain, Mexico. He's not sure if he'll be starting or relieving, however.

He's looking forward to accomplishing plenty during his time south of the border.

"I'm anxious to play winter ball and show them over there that I can pitch too," he said. "I'm looking to get that experience under my belt and have fun. I've never played winter ball since I've been in the organization. I'm going to work on the little things like my mechanics. I'd like to start using my off-speed pitches more when I'm behind in counts."

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