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David Hernandez optioned to Reno

One of the more poignant images of the 2013 campaign will be a distraught David Hernandez being comforted in the dugout after an appearance earlier this season. Unfortunately, Hernandez hasn't been able to turn it around, and was optioned to Reno after tonight;s game.

Denis Poroy

It's a remarkable fall from grace for Hernandez, who was being spoken of as heir apparent to the closer's spot coming into the season, having put up a stellar 2.94 ERA over 146 appearances in 2011 and 2012, since being traded from the Orioles for Mark Reynolds, with a staggering K-rate of 11.4 per nine innings. This season started off little differently, with a 2.84 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 12.2 April innings. Then the wheels started to fall off. At first it was more of a loosening, with a 3.60 ERA in May. But from the middle of the following month, he seemed to disintegrate, through tonight's outing, where he allowed two runs in an inning of work - apparently the final straw.

It's hard to pinpoint a reason for the struggles, because the K's are still clearly there, at not much less of a rate than last season. His fast-ball is averaging 94.7 mph, which is exactly where it was last season: I do note a decrease in the percentage of time batters swing at his pitches out of the zone, down from 35.6% to 29.7%. But whatever the reason may be, Hernandez's line from June 11 on, was just awful, a two-month gurgling vortex of suck.
21.0 IP, 21 H, 23 R, 22 ER, 12 BB, 20 K, 5 HR, 9.43 ERA
And if anything, DH had actually been lucky, with a season BABIP coming into today of .260, well below average..

Said manager Kirk Gibson, "He's struggled, so we're going to get him down there in a different environment. The game has been cruel to him," and Hernandez himself was even more forthright about the move, saying : "I’m surprised I lasted that long." He acknowledged that he has had ":a pretty rough year"  but and now hopes that he can move forward. Certainly, it seems like the right thing to do: I can't say I had any real confidence in Hernandez for any important innings, and was very surprised to see Kirk Gibson turn to him in the eighth inning tonight, to try and keep it a one-run game.

There's no word yet on a corresponding move - that'll come tomorrow - or what will happen to the rest of the bullpen roles. I wouldn't be surprised to see WIll Harris, who has impressed enormously since being picked up off the waiver wire, getting higher-leverage innings. Hopefully, Hernandez will get his confidence back - though Reno isn't exactly the first place that comes to mind, if you're looking to rehabilitate a struggling pitcher! I like the guy: he clearly cares, and fingers crossed he can sort himself out, and return to being the devastatingly effective weapon we saw during the previous two seasons for the Diamondbacks.