Gabriel Hernandez Reporting for Duty

The Gulf Coast season was over for the Mets Saturday after being eliminated from the playoffs, and Mets third round pick Gabriel (Gaby) Hernandez was heading to his Miami home to rest for the next fifteen days. His rest would not be long as he received a phone calling telling him he would be on a plane the next day to come to New York to be an extra arm in the Cyclones bullpen.

Hernandez dominated the GCL, pitching to a 3-3 record with a 1.09 ERA. In 49.2 innings he allowed 25 hits and issued 12 walks while striking out 58 batters. He also threw a 5 inning complete game no hitter for the GCL Mets.

"The hitters at Gulf Coast are much more aggressive and free swingers. The main thing is they hit the mistakes you got away with in high school" the 18 year old from Miami, Florida said.

One of the bright spots of Hernandez in high school was striking out 20 batters in 8 innings.

"I was just in the zone and cruising" said Hernandez. "I was dominating with my fastball and I was throwing hard the whole game. My last pitch was clocked at 92 mph. I was in such a groove that game."

As he was preparing to attend Florida International University, the last thing Hernandez expected was to be a third round pick in this year's draft.

"It was just very exciting and I was just hoping to get picked. I never expected to hear my name in the third round" said Hernandez. "My first words to the scout who called me to tell me I was drafted were - I am excited to be a Met, and want to get started as soon as possible."

Hernandez knew the Mets had some interest in him since they watched him pitch in every single one of his starts, along with the Phillies and Yankees.

"It was between those three teams" said Hernandez.

Hernandez didn't think twice about turning professional, and the fact that he was picked so high and received a $480,000 signing bonus made his decision a no-brainer.

"Being a third round pick, pretty much made it a very easy decision for me."

Hernandez is planning on attending college starting in 2005, and will try to get in as many classes as he can, as he still plans on pursuing a college degree.

For now though, Hernandez will be ready to pitch out of the Cyclones bullpen whenever he is needed and called upon.

"I was told from the organization that I should not hesitate to use him. The organization has so much confidence in this kid", manager Tony Tijerina said.

Hernandez will not get much time to rest, as he will be attending the Mets instructional league program in Florida, which begins September 17, for now he is taking advantage of this time to continue improving mechanically.

Just one day after arriving in Brooklyn, Hernandez was in the Cyclones bullpen working with pitching coach Hector Berrios in a 40 minute side session.

"While pitching I tend to fall and lean forward in my motion, and now the Mets are trying to have me stay on my back leg, and draw my power from my back leg."

Hernandez is a three pitch pitcher at the moment. His fastball has good movement and is clocked in the 90-93 range. His curveball is another pitch that he can throw for a strike with any count and he throws it in the 74-75 range. His best out pitch is his changeup, which he succeeds in keeping down in the zone. Gaby is also prepared to add a cutter along with his three current pitches, if he feels he needs to.

"I can throw all my pitches for strikes, which is a big reason of my success so far."

Out of his three current pitches, Hernandez would like to improve his changeup, in terms of throwing it consistently on the inside and outside corner, however for now he is just soaking up the New York atmosphere and ready to use his blazing arm when called upon.

"I know this organization has one of the best minor league pitching programs, starting with Rick Peterson, and going all the way down to each level of the minor leagues. The coaches I have worked with have all helped me become a better pitcher. They have a fundamentally sound pitching program, but most importantly they have good teachers to teach you it."

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