Sunday, April 09, 2006

Roberto Hernandez Usurps Mike Gonzalez

The official reason for Pittsburgh's signing of free agent Roberto Hernandez, 16th on the all-time career saves list, was to set up closer Mike Gonzalez. But the real reason was for Hernandez to take over in case Gonzalez falters, which Gonzalez has in three consecutive outings. Bringing Gonzalez into Sunday's game in the eighth makes it abundantly clear that the left-throwing Gonzalez already has earned a significant no-confidence vote. Thus the 41-year-old Hernandez earned his first save by pitching a scoreless ninth to preserve Pittsburgh's 5-3 victory over the Reds. Despite his advanced age and a succession of rocky performances in recent years, Hernandez still throws hard and rebounded in '05, when he recorded a 3.52 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 69 innings. Still, it remains to be seen whether Gonzalez will earn another chance or ultimately become part of a committee with hard-throwing Solomon Torres.