Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hernandez playing his hand well

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/17/11

PHOENIX -- David Hernandez knows how to play his hand.

That much D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knows from watching the right-handed setup man-turned-closer during clubhouse card games.

"He's kind of quiet, but he's devious in the way he likes to beat you," Gibson said. "He's very sly and very good."

And the 26-year-old has been very good in locking down saves at the back end of the bullpen since J.J. Putz went on the shelf with an elbow injury, saving six games in as many opportunities and not allowing a hit -- much less a run -- in the process.

"There's a little more adrenaline closing out games vs. coming in for the eighth," Hernandez said on Saturday night.

Hernandez has eight saves and has come around to the "closer's mentality" so critical to success in the ninth inning.

"I don't know if he did initially," Gibson said about having that mentality. "It's something different, but I'm sure he likes it. Why wouldn't you?"

"At first I took [the role] with optimism," Hernandez said. "I didn't know if I was ready, but I put the work in and took it day by day."

Hernandez's jump from starter to reliever to closer has happened in just a year's time.

"In quick time," Gibson said. "The one thing that worries me is, he was a starter last year, he relieved very little last year, and he's come in here and has the most appearances on our team. He seems healthy, he always says he feels good, so I hope he's one of those durable guys."

Hernandez has a 3.19 ERA in 42 1/3 innings.

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