It was announced Monday afternoon prior to the start of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals that Spencer Howard was being activated off the 60-day IL and Jonathan Hernandez was being sent to Round Rock. The Texas Rangers made room on the 40-man roster by moving Jacob deGrom to the 60-day IL. deGrom now cannot be activated till June 28th.
For Hernandez this completes a fall from setup reliever, to middle inning, and now to being sent down to Round Rock. Hernandez this past offseason I wrote about him assuming the closers role at some point this season. He throws harder than anyone else in the bullpen and probably has the best pure stuff. Unfortunately, it just has not worked for Hernandez to this point. He has been more hittable this season than he has been in the past. Hernandez has such a promising arm, but the results have not lined up with how good his stuff has been.
Texas Rangers' Reliever Jonathan Hernandez and his fall from grace.
2020 was such a weird season. It was only 60 games due to the pandemic and there were no fans at any of the regular season games. The Rangers finished with the second worst record in the league. One of the positives from that season was Hernandez. He was a lockdown reliever for that last place team. He was 5-1, with a 2.90 ERA, he struck out 31 and walked 8. He had a 3.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Then in 2021 he suffered an arm injury and required Tommy John surgery. He was not able to build on that successful 2020 season. Hernandez missed all of 2021 and then did not come back to the Rangers till July 2022. Ever since then, he has been trying to find that consistency that he had in 2020.
The numbers for Hernandez in 2022 were not that much different than in 2020. The numbers in 2023 are much worse than any previous season he has had. His ERA is 6.65, his batting average against is a career-high .286, and he has already given up a career-high four home runs. His strikeouts per 9 innings have increased from last season to 9.55 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is also better than 2022 at 2.09. His batting average on balls put into play is a career-worst .339. While he is still missing bats, he is also more hittable.
Hernandez will be in uniform Tuesday night for Round Rock as they head out to start a week-long series against Salt Lake City. Not the ideal environment for pitching. Hernandez is still one of the Rangers better relievers and when he gets it figured out I fully expect him to be called back up. He is still apart of the plans for the team in 2023. The Rangers are not giving up on him by sending him down. They just are putting him into a low pressure environment to help him return to being the dominant reliever that he was in prior seasons.
The update on Texas Rangers' starter Jacob deGrom and promotion of Spencer Howard
While it is disappointing to see Hernandez get sent down, the headline is more about Jacob deGrom. He is the ace of the staff and raises the ceiling of this team if he is healthy. This pushes back his timeline for return. It appeared like he would be ready soon, now it is looking like it will be the end of the month or maybe not even till after the All-Star break.
Chris Young talked to the media and said this to the Dallas Morning News after the news was announced about deGrom.
"Jacob will pitch for us, I’m confident of that,” Young said. “I just don’t know the timing. I know the player, the work ethic and the desire. I believe the player knows his body best and knows what his cues are. When there are good days, we take the next step forward."- Chris Young
He also said that deGrom would be undergoing a second MRI to check out the progress of his elbow on Tuesday. They will take that information and proceed from there. The Rangers are 38-20 and first place in the AL West. They have played now 33 games without deGrom and are 24-9 in that time. They will just have to continue to play well without him. If the Rangers can get deGrom for all of the second half and potential playoffs that will be good. The team will be chasing their first playoff appearance since 2016 and having a deGrom with a fresh arm will be rejuvenating for the team.
Don't forget about Texas Rangers reliever Spencer Howard
Spencer Howard will be seeing his first major-league action this season as well. He has been on the IL all season long with a right lat strain. He was rehabbing last week for Round Rock and was routinely hitting 97mph with his fastball and pitched 3 2/3 innings and struck out seven batters. This video below is from Scott Lucas of the Newberg Report. It shows Howard in one of his appearances last week.
He will be an intriguing option for Bochy to use as a long-man/middle-relief role. Howard will be looking for a long-term role and the Rangers will hopefully find another pitcher to add to their bullpen for the rest of the season.