Hernandez Set for Return

Robert Hernandez, a 19-year-old Cubs pitching prospect who made 20 starts a year ago in the Midwest League, has returned to the Class-A Peoria Chiefs after serving a 50-game suspension for use of a performance-enhancing substance.

At age 18, Hernandez was the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League in 2007. His youth served him well as Hernandez, who was signed by Cubs scout Hector Ortega in Venezuela in 2005, held his own with an 8-9 record and 4.34 ERA in 100-plus innings. He struck out 71 batters and walked just 28.

This spring, Hernandez tested positive for the substance stanozolol, which violates the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Better known by its brand name "Winstrol," stanozolol was at the center of former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's alleged steroid use, according to an August, 2005, report by the New York Times.

The drug was also alleged to have been administered to Roger Clemens in the late 90s by disgraced former trainer Brian McNamee in last year's Mitchell Report.

During his suspension, Hernandez was not prohibited from working out in Extended Spring Training and now appears ready to get back to work at Peoria.

"Obviously as an organization, we support the commissioner's office," Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita said. "He (Hernandez) has got himself in good shape and isn't far from putting this behind him and moving forward."

A 6-foot-2 right-hander, Hernandez is considered one of the top young arms in the Cubs' farm system. He has worked with Cubs starter and major league ace Carlos Zambrano, whom the Cubs say has taken Hernandez under his wing.

"He's taken a liking to Carlos and the mutual liking between the two has benefited him," Fleita said. "He's a tough kid that's very athletic. He's worked really hard and we'll start seeing really big dividends I think. He's got the ability some day to have a real big arm. He's a strike-thrower and he competes."

Hernandez is also a hard-thrower that has touched the low-90s. He features a changeup in his repertoire and has fiddled with both a slider and curveball.

"One day he'll (throw) either a slider or curveball" for a breaking pitch, Fleita said. "Right now, that's kind of in the middle. In due time, we'll figure out which one."

Hernandez was assigned to Peoria Sunday. To coincide with the move, RHP Alberto Cabrera was sent to Extended Spring Training.

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