Notes: Hernandez called up from 51s
Veteran's addition should lighten load for laboring staff
LOS ANGELES -- The 26-hit shellacking the Dodgers pitching staff absorbed on Tuesday night turned into good news for 42-year-old reliever Roberto Hernandez, who was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday morning to reinforce the depleted bullpen.Hernandez, who ranks 11th on the all-time saves list with 326, was released last month by Cleveland, which ate a $3.5 million salary. Also pursued by the Cubs, he signed on July 7 with the Dodgers, his 10th Major League club. After a couple of bullpen sessions in Class A Vero Beach, a simulated game at Las Vegas and one inning of game action on Monday night for the 51s, he got the call after the Dodgers were forced to use Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel for mop-up innings. Those two have each pitched four of the last five games. Infielder Tony Abreu was optioned to Las Vegas to make room for Hernandez, who arrived an hour before Wednesday's game. Born in Puerto Rico and reared in New York, Hernandez seemed to know virtually every one of his new teammates. Manager Grady Little, citing Hernandez's 16-years of Major League experience and rock-solid character, said the right-hander will be a welcome addition in the sixth and seventh innings as the 12th pitcher on the staff. "He's still got a lot left in that arm," said Little. Hernandez agreed, saying he washed out of Cleveland this year because he tried to do too much and struggled with his command. "I'm always fighting. You're not a competitor if you don't have that in you," said Hernandez. "You have to know when to control it. I let it get the best of me this year." Hernandez last pitched in the Major Leagues on June 19. He went home and played catch with his 13-year-old son and said it crossed his mind that he might not get another chance to win a first World Series ring. Why continue? "Pride," he said. "You can earn all the money [he's made $45 million in his career], if you don't have pride, what are you? It's tough when you try to do too much. I learned my lesson." Abreu to play: With eight infielders on the roster and the success of the recent alignment with James Loney at first base and Nomar Garciaparra at third, playing time for the 22-year-old Abreu had pretty much disappeared. The club wants Abreu to play regularly, especially with the possibility that this will be second baseman Jeff Kent's last season. "He's at the point where he's doing too much sitting on the bench," said Little. "That's not what we want to do with a 22-year-old player." Little said Abreu will play mostly second base at Las Vegas but also will see action at shortstop and third. There will be a jam up of players there, as Andy LaRoche and Marshall McDougall have shared time at third base and Cin-lung Hu has taken shortstop time away from Wilson Valdez. All have been hitting well. "I'm not the boss or the manager. I don't go against what they have to say," said a disappointed Abreu, who was hitting .288 in 43 games. "I was a little surprised." Any volunteers? Little said he was not tempted to put a position player on the mound to save Broxton or Beimel once Tuesday night's game got out of hand. "You try to stay away from that," he said. "When you do stuff like that, you're always risking injury to a position player that's totally unnecessary if you can avoid it. We've got guys who can do it. James Loney can do it. He could probably get outs some days better than the other guys." Indeed, Loney considered himself a better pitching prospect than hitting first baseman until his senior year of high school, when his bat caught up with his arm. Scouts were torn which role offered him the best future, but Dodgers scouting director Logan White picked Loney in the first round as a first baseman. Loney said he didn't volunteer to pitch on Tuesday night but felt he didn't need to. "They know I'm ready," he said, drawing laughter from Chad Billingsley at the neighboring locker. Little said he's never used a position player to pitch in the Major Leagues. The last Dodgers position player to pitch in a game was Robin Ventura, who threw a scoreless inning in 2004 for manager Jim Tracy. Hendrickson remains in rotation: Little said Mark Hendrickson, charged with seven runs in three-plus innings on Monday night, will make his next scheduled start on Sunday against the New York Mets. Lineup changes: For Wednesday's day game after a night game, Little rested Kent and Garciaparra, replacing them with Ramon Martinez and Wilson Betemit. Coming up: Derek Lowe (8-8, 3.05 ERA) opposes Tom Glavine (8-6, 4.15) and the Mets in Thursday night's opener of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.