Chris Hernandez was drafted out of the University of Miami in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He had a fantastic 2010 campaign going 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.15. Hernandez discusses his struggles & adaptations in college, the pressure of the draft, and more.
Chris Hernandez was the first guy I asked for an interview on Monday. He was really nice and said he would do it after he worked out. So I interviewed Derrik Gibson and Will Middlebrooks, and I thought that I had missed Hernandez, and that he had left because I wans’t around. There was even the possiblity that he was still working out, but it was already past 1, and I don’t like being late to the big league games. So I went back to my car, started it, and put my stuff away, when a red truck pulled up next to me. I ignored it because I didn’t think it was anything significant, but then someone knocked on my window, and it was none other than Hernandez. He sincerely apologized and said that he forgot.
I was in complete shock, though, because this was seriously above and beyond. I seriously don’t expec these guys to wait around for me–I’m on their time, and I try to make it as convenient as possible for them.
The fact that Chris came back after he got back to his hotel really speaks to the kind of person he is. I wouldn’t have been upset if it hadn’t worked out–just try again next time, but he really followed through, and I really appreciated that. I mean this is a completely unofficial blog, and I’m loosely affiliated with the Sea Dogs (freelancing for them this spring). I’m still in high school. So I thought that was an unbelievably incredible gesture on his part.
You were drafted in the seventh round out of UM, but were you drafted out of high school as well?
Yeah, I was drafted in the 14th round by the
What were the deciding factors in choosing to go to college over going professionally?
Well, the first thing was that we had communications
throughout the summer, and we didn’t come to terms on both sides, and I thought
that going to school would have been a better idea because it would give me
three years under my belt just in case baseball doesn’t work out in the end, I
have something to fall back on, so I ended up going to school, and I don’t regret it
at all because I had a great time and it taught me a lot.
So what did you end up majoring in?
I majored in business management, so I have two
more semesters to go, so I’m going to try and finish now in the off season… finish at
least one semester and, then I have one more left, and then hopefully get a
degree from the university, which is a pretty respectable thing, and that’s
something I’ve always wanted to have is a college degree.
UM is a great school for baseball, so how do you think pitching in college contributed to your development?
It taught me a lot–especially facing older guys with
aluminum bats, it taught me that I have to stay down in the zone–if not I’m going to
get hit out of the ballpark all day. Also, the pitching coach helped me out
there a lot: he helped me develop my mental game and know how to bounce back
from struggling because I did struggle some my sophomore year, so he taught me
how to deal with adversity, and the fact that I will struggle at times and how
to bounce back from it.
What did you struggle with sophomore year?
I just didn’t feel prepared going into the season. I came
back, and they were hitting me around the ballpark, and I couldn’t really find my
groove until the middle of the year, and I started getting back into things, and
I was able to fall back in the track some more, but it wasn’t the same as it was
my freshman or junior year.
How has your arsenal changed since you were in high school?
I still have the same amount of pitches. I did change from
the two-seam to the one-seam, which gives me a little more down action on my
fastball down and away, and I have developed my changeup a lot more, which is
something I didn’t have as much at the college level. I mainly relied on my
fastball and cutter, and every once in a while I showed a changeup just to show
it, and now I can throw a changeup for a strike, and it’s a big pitch that they
always talked about that you’re gonna need at this level, so that’s why I wanted
to develop it early and I had been able to.
What was your biggest challenge last year?
Dealing with the pressure of the draft throughout the whole
year, and trying to focus on the season, and trying to have a good season, and
being a leader to the rest of the guys because we were a young team and a young
staff, and it was a little difficult at times balancing both things–especially
at the end when the draft came around, but I was able to do it, and my year
actually came out just the way I liked it. I mean the draft worked its way out
somehow, and I just did what I had to do and everything fell into place
So then the draft was in the back of your mind at all times?
It was, yeah, it’s always something that’s going to be in the back
of your mind–especially since it’s kind of deciding your future, and if you want
to be a baseball player you need to go in the draft and try and go high to at
least get a little bit of money and make [it] your worthwhile being out here and
also teams have a little bit of interest in you, and it was a
tough thing to do balancing both sides of the spectrum, but it was good I was
able to do it, and it worked out for me in the end.
Are you kind of dealing with expectations now? Especially being the seventh round pick?
Yeah and no because I know, to me, when I walk into a place
for the first time, I don’t think people expect anything. They just like to see
what you can bring to the table, and I kind of just took this as something to have fun with instead of taking it you know to the point where
you’re struggling everyday because of how stressed out you are and I’m trying to
have as much fun as it with I can and enjoy being out here and enjoy just
playing out here, and it’s helping me out so far with the stress of being away
from home and the stress of everyday trying to fight for a job.
In college you probably had an everyday catcher right? But here youre gonna have catchers coming and going. Is this going to impact you at all?
I mean, it’s going to be a little different. I’m going to have to get
used to it because in college, my catcher was Yasmani Grandal (12th overall pick to the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 draft), and he knew my
game well, and I really could rely on him to call games, and here I’ll be able to
rely on guys more when we get into the season. There will be one or two catchers,
and they’ll more or less know your way but I’m going to have to start really
focusing on my strengths instead of relying on what the catcher is putting down
and shaking him off from time which I didn’t do in college.
So are you still going to let your catchers kind of think for you and call the pitches, or are you going to do that yourself?
I’m still going to let my catchers call the game, and if I see
something that I’m not comfortable with, or that I don’t like, I’ll shake it off
and re-address it later on in the game to make sure we are on the same page.
Did you ever pitch in the summer leagues like Cape-Cod?
No… Well, I only pitched my freshman going to sophomore year. I
pitched on Team USA.
How do you think that contributed to your development?
It’s a different experience: facing guys from other countries,
playing against them, and they were more developed at times, but it was a good
experience. It helped me in the way I face guys with wood bats, but it didn’t
help much because I just try to go out there and do my thing, and plus it was
the end of the season, and you’re feeling tired already from a college season.
How was the transition from aluminum to wooden bats for you? Did you change anything?
The best thing is staying down in the zone, they really cant
hurt you, unlike if you stay down in the zone with aluminum, they can still hurt
you from time to time. With wood bats it’s a little more difficult: you have
to be able to put your bat on the ball a little more solid, put it in that sweet
spot. In that sense it kind of makes you relax a little bit because you can kind
of be OK with missing somewhat because of the wood bat.
What have you noticed in hitters as they have matured–even around here?
Watching the guys here–and watching them throw and watching
guys hits–I’m picking up things as to where hitters have better eyes hitters,
watch the strike zone a little better, so its going to be a little tougher to pitch
to guys and miss in the zone. They’re gonna be on the lookout for strikes, and
that’s going to be the main thing is throwing strikes instead of just missing off
the plate and things like that.
Are you prone to certain pitches in certain situations?
I’ve always pretty much relied on my cutter, and I’m trying to
change that and be able to throw any pitch in any situation, but for right now
that’s always been my pitch to go to and my pitch that I like, but for the most
part I’ve been working on trying to get my fastball, and my changeup, and my
curveball to throw in any situation that need be.
What about certain counts?
I really didn’t… like I said my out pitch was always the
cutter, but I’m trying to shy away from it, but using different pitches in
different situations so it’s not a pattern every time… hitters can’t pick up on
things like that.
What do you think fans overlook the most?
Some people think it’s a real glorious life, and it is when
you make it to the big leagues, but the minor leagues [are] a grind day in and day
out, and you’re out on the field for hours practicing and trying to get things
done, and a lot of people don’t see that.
If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?
Try and jump on first couple of pitches because I always come
out throwing strikes, and sometimes guys use that against me, and they’ll jump
out and jump on my fastball early and stuff like that, but for the most part
jumping out early on the first couple of pitches.
What are you working on this spring?
Using the fastball more and using it in later counts when I
got guys 0-2, things like that and putting away guys with the fastball.
What was the bright spot of your college career?
I’d have to say it was in college when we were
in Omaha (college world series) my freshman year. That was a good experience. I was able to start the
first game for us as a freshman, so it was fun and exciting. We didn’t get to win
that day, but I still felt good going out in front of all those fans. It felt
like something id like to keep doing for the rest of my life.
How do you think pitching in those big league games impacted your development?
It got me prepared for what I’m going to face at the top level,
which is the big leagues. Obviously it wasn’t as big of a crowd, but we still had
big turnouts at Miami, and big turnouts wherever we went to, so that was good
pitching in front of a crowd.