March 24, 2011 at 9:30 AM
Chris Hernandez had a stellar career at the University of Miami prior to being selected by the Red Sox in seventh round of the 2010 MLB Draft. In three seasons, the left-hander won 28 games while losing only 8. His 2008 freshman season, during which he went 11-0, was the best by a Hurricane freshman in the history of the program, and led to his selection as the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and First Team All-ACC. He continued that success the following two seasons, adding a second First Team All-ACC selection to his resume in 2010 after going 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA, striking out 110 batters in 105.2 innings.
After signing with the Red Sox, Hernandez was assigned to Short-Season-A Lowell, where he made one, two-inning start. Chris recently sat down at minor league spring training with SoxProspects.com’s Jonathan Singer to discuss his early thoughts on pro ball, his arsenal, and his time at the University of Miami.
Jonathan Singer: How was your off-season? Did the Red Sox put you on a set workout program to prepare you for your first spring training?
Chris Hernandez: The off-season went pretty well. I worked out at home over the winter at my school (University of Miami) along with my normal throwing. I had followed the program they had handed to me at the end of the 2010 season, and followed that day by day while following the set throwing program. The program definitely helped me prepare for spring training.
JS: Tell us about your pitching arsenal.
CH: I throw two different fastballs. One of them is a one-seam fastball while the other is a four-seam fastball. I also throw a cut fastball, a curve, and a changeup. I’m not overpowering as a pitcher but I use my pitches effectively to set up hitters to produce outs.
JS: How would say your pick-off move rates as a left-hander?
CH: It’s decent, but it definitely could use some work in some areas. I have been working on it here and there during spring training trying to get it a little better so it is definitely improving.
JS: Describe your strengths and weaknesses as a pitcher.
CH: One of my strengths is definitely throwing a lot of strikes. I like to stay down in the zone with my pitches in order to command the strike zone, allowing me to throw a lot of strikes. My weakness is that I sometimes go out there on the mound and beat myself with poor command of my pitches.
JS: You got a taste of professional baseball with Lowell last year. What type of adjustments did you have to make in your transition from college baseball to pro ball?
CH: I didn’t really sense too much (of a difference in Lowell), since I only threw two innings, so I couldn’t really get a feel off that, but when I came down here to the Fall Instructional League, the difference was more or less that guys were going to have a better eye for the strike zone, so I have to be able to throw more strikes and be in the zone a lot more often.
JS: What type of program did you go through in the instructional league?
CH: It was a basic workout program they handed to me, a throwing program just to stay in shape. We were down here in Fort Myers for about three weeks. I threw some bullpen sessions along with pitching in some games. I’d say I threw about 10 innings on the mound during the instructional league. Definitely was a good experience that helped in the transition to pro ball.
JS: What have been your impressions of your first spring training?
CH: It has been pretty exciting so far, as it’s something different. Basically this is taking the step to where I want to be, which is to get to the big leagues one day. But spring training has been really fun.
JS: You were drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 14th round in 2007. What were some of the reasons you bypassed pro ball in order to pitcher at the University of Miami?
CH: I was always a big fan of the University of Miami. They have a great program there and one of my dreams was always to pitch for my hometown team in college. It was a great experience, something I would not pass up. We did not come to terms with the Tigers, so I went to Miami and I don’t regret any of it, because I got a head start on my education and have three years completed with one left. Hopefully, I will be able to finish that last year of school just in case baseball does not work out.
JS: It definitely seems pretty easy to pass up on the Tigers when you had a baseball tradition of 23 College World Series appearances to go along with 4 national championships standing in front of you at Miami.
CH: With the statistics that they put up every year and getting to the tournament along with reaching the World Series so often, it was pretty much a no-brainer in my mind to go the college route, especially being able to pitch in front of my family and friends.
JS: You dominated your freshman year in leading the Hurricanes to the College World Series. Tell us about that experience of reaching Omaha.
CH: It was really fun. This was something I had never experienced before. What helped a lot were the guys that were behind me, the older guys that understood that I was a new guy. They respected me and I respected them in return, and I earned their respect by the way I threw each time I went out onto that mound. It was fun, because every time I went out there I had their support out on the field on both offense and defense.
JS: Have you set any goals for yourself in 2011?
CH: Yeah, I just want to go out there and improve on everything I am doing. The priority is to make a full season club and get moving, because the ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues. I want to get there as soon as possible.
JS: Moving away from baseball, what does Chris Hernandez enjoy away from the field?
CH: I've got some hobbies, but really can’t do too much of them out here. I used to work on my truck a lot back at home and that’s something I can’t do around here. I hang out with my fiancé when she comes up to visit me, and play some PlayStation to kill time along with playing some golf.
JS: With the grind of the baseball season approaching, it looks like some of those hobbies will be put on hold for the time being.
CH: Absolutely, but it is exciting to come out every day to the ball field. It’s something I have always wanted to do but I just have to keep working hard. Sometimes you have to pay a little price for what you want in the end.