Texas Rangers: Jonathan Hernandez forcing his way into bullpen

Jonathan Hernandez has been one of the best performers of the spring and is doing his part to force his way into the Texas Rangers bullpen.

Entering Spring Training, Jonathan Hernandez looked to be a pitcher on the outside looking in at a role with the Texas Rangers coming out of camp. Long developed as a starter, the organization believes he still has the ability to be in the rotation for the long haul. However, currently, the Rangers rotation is as deep as ever meaning for him to continue his work as a starter, he would have to do it with Triple-A Nashville alongside Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn and Kolby Allard. However, Hernandez’s stuff plays in the big leagues right now as a reliever leaving an interesting decision to be made this spring.

However, for what seemed to be a decision that would last much of Spring Training for the club is quickly being made for them as Hernandez continues to display “absolute filth” on the mound, in the words of Chris Woodward. In Thursday’s split squad game against the Cubs, Hernandez got the start going three innings and allowing just a pair of hits, both to Ian Happ. He struck out four and walked one looking fairly dominant in his pitch offerings. Throughout the spring, Hernandez has made four appearances, two as starts, and thrown seven total innings. He’s sitting with a 3.86 ERA and has K’d 10 hitters. But beyond those solid stats, his life and movement has been eye opening. Hernandez is regular sitting 98 MPH and his command has been better, something he struggled with on his minor league journey.

Hernandez made his big league debut in last season and made nine appearances, the majority of which were in relief. His 4.32 ERA was impressive as were his 19 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. However, he issued 13 free passes in that time compounding the questions over his control. With just three walks issued in seven innings so far in Spring Training, his control could be reaching a point where it is more than passable for a big league reliever.

Looking at the bullpen in 2020, we can already pencil in some names. Jose Leclerc, Rafael Montero and Jesse Chavez are sure to return to their roles in the ‘pen. Alongside them are likely newcomers Joely Rodriguez, who would fill a lefty spot, and Nick Goody who the club acquired from the Twins this offseason. With five spots filled, that leaves three roles still up for grabs. It’s reasonable to assume one of those will go to another left-hander and Brett Martin seems the most likely to get that gig. With two spots left, Hernandez seems to have carved out the inside track to securing one of those spots. We’ll have to see how his final few outings of the spring go but at this rate, he could factor in to impact spots for the big league team in Arlington come regular season.