Bye-Bye, Roberto

There was one Phillies acquisition made in the off-season that was met with trepidation. They had signed Roberto Hernandez, late of the Atlanta Braves (most recently), and a former closer with the Chicago White Sox (among others) to fill a set-up role in their revamped bullpen. Why, we'll never know.

Hernandez, formerly a dominant closer in his prime, had been struggling since leaving the Windy City in 1997. He was part of the purge where Sox GM Kenny Williams gutted the team at the trade deadline with the White Sox just two games out of first in the A.L. Central. Sure, he picked up 43 saves for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, but his ERA rose steadily for each of the next four seasons, topping out in 2003 at 4.35. Last season, he was a middle innings pitcher for the Braves, and compiled a 4.35 ERA in 60 innings of work. There was nothing in his recent performances that would explain the Phillies signing him and giving him a prime role in their bullpen.

But now, after a horrendous May, where Hernandez' ERA for the month was 10.80 and batters were hitting .333 against him, the handwriting is on the wall; it's time to let Roberto go. In his seven appearances in May, he allowed ten runs - 8 earned - walked eight, gave up nine hits, and saw his season ERA go from a respectable 3.27 in April to 6.11 at the end of May. National League batters are hitting .300 against him for the season, and he's allowing almost two batters on base (either by base hit or walk) for every inning he pitches. For a player whose main job is to get the key out, he has been failing miserably.

In a bullpen with Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, and Rheal Cormier, there seemed to be no place for Hernandez, but Larry Bowa & Ed Wade fit him in. When Cormier - who is still pitching somewhat inconsistently - struggled early, they turned to Hernandez, and he didn't do the job. But are there any other options? We have seen Ryan Madson come in this year and be almost unhittable. Amaury Telemaco has done a fine job in the long relief role, and even recent call-up Elizardo Ramirez has shown flashes of brilliance. Why Bowa needs to turn to Roberto Hernandez is a mystery.

Another scrap-heap pitcher is not what the Phillies needed out in the bullpen; what they need is another lefty to compliment Cormier (and Wagner, when he gets healthy). It is true that lefty relievers who can do the job are a scarce commodity, but what the league has an abundance of right now is righties who can't get guys out. The Phillies have one as well; it wouldn't hurt to throw another one on the pile. Bye-bye, Roberto.

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