Officially, the Phillies don't have a closer set for this season. Unofficially, they have been hoping that David Hernandez would be the guy who would win the job this Spring and take over for Ken Giles, who was dealt to Houston during the offseason. The problem is that Hernandez, who missed all of 2014 after Tommy John surgery, felt a twinge in his elbow while throwing live batting practice early in camp and felt it again the next time he was on a mound. The diagnosis was triceps tendinitis, and the Phillies shut Hernandez down to let his elbow heal.
Yesterday, the Phillies used Hernandez for an inning in a minor league game and he got hit around (1 IP, 3 H, 2 Doubles, 3 ER), but didn't have any pain in the elbow, which was the major concern. In the outing, Hernandez threw 28 pitches, 17 of which were for strikes. The Phillies reported that Hernandez threw all of his pitches and his velocity topped out at 93 mph. Hernandez admitted he wasn't happy with the results, but that they were secondary to simply being able to pitch with no pain.
After missing all of 2014, Hernandez returned to the mound just last June and pitched in 40 games for Arizona, going 1-5 and putting up a 4.28 ERA for the D'backs.
Hernandez said that since first feeling the pain, he has gotten much better and can throw without any pain, but does have discomfort in the elbow after he leaves the mound.
"It kind of gets tight on me, but during pitching and playing catch, it doesn't really bother me," Hernandez told Megan Montemurro of The News Journal. "It's just calming down. It gets cold on you, and it just gets stiff. It's just part of getting back. When I threw my first game, I felt it while I was throwing, so now, I don't feel it while I'm throwing. It's a good sign."
Hernandez told Montemurro that he doesn't come into camp looking to throw a specific amount of innings, but he does need to throw back-to-back days, which likely won't happen until next week or even the week after. It's likely that if Hernandez can get enough work and has any sort of success, he will be named the closer for the team. If not, the list of possible replacements is wide open.
The Phillies haven't announced when Hernandez will pitch again next or whether it will be in another minor league game or with the big league club.