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The reason behind Hernandez's superb spring

Shoemaker continues to impress while Luciano struggles
@gregorMLB
March 20, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Teoscar Hernandez has become one of the breakout stars at this year's Spring Training, and he has been able to find success in a pretty surprising way: increased plate discipline. Hernandez was known as a free swinger earlier in his career and there will always be an

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Teoscar Hernandez has become one of the breakout stars at this year's Spring Training, and he has been able to find success in a pretty surprising way: increased plate discipline.

Hernandez was known as a free swinger earlier in his career and there will always be an element of that to his game, but he also has started to learn how to work a count. Pitches that he used to chase, Hernandez now watches pass outside the zone for a ball.

The change has resulted in six walks in 39 at-bats to go along with two home runs, a double, eight RBIs and a .410 average. He has all but officially guaranteed himself a significant amount of playing time in left field to start the year.

"I'm going out there with a plan," Hernandez said. "I'm going to try to keep going into the season with the same plan, and just try to keep doing what I'm doing this spring, try to control myself to not get too anxious. When the season starts, keep working on the things that aren't working here and try to keep improving my skills."

Hernandez typically posted high on-base percentages throughout his Minor League career, but his discipline suffered once he arrived in the Majors. In 26 games for the Blue Jays as a September callup in 2017, Hernandez walked just once and some of those bad habits carried into the following year, with a .302 on-base percentage that was impacted by a paltry .239 average.

Patience has been what Hernandez has been preaching the most this spring, and it's a hard skill set to learn. A lot of players either have it, or they don't. Hernandez is trying to prove it's possible to make some simple changes and reap the rewards.

"It came with experience," Hernandez said. "Obviously I have a couple of years now in baseball. I got my first full one, not full one but we can say complete season last year. They gave me a lot of experience, especially with the guys who were here the year before in 2017."

Shoemaker continues to roll

Right-hander Matt Shoemaker appears to be rounding into form at the right time as he pitched into the sixth inning for the second consecutive start on Wednesday afternoon. Toronto's expected No. 2 starter limited the Braves to three runs on three hits while striking out seven and walking two.

Shoemaker threw 48 of his 79 pitches for strikes and he's now expected to dial it back just a bit in his final spring start before he prepares to face the Tigers for the second game of the regular season.

"It’s definitely encouraging," Shoemaker said. "When you go out there and execute pitches and execute them well, you tend to get swing and misses so when it’s a strike-to-ball, or down in the zone or a good located inside/outside or up and it’s a swing and miss, it’s a well-executed pitch, usually.

"I feel great. I know we got the pitches up to almost 90, so endurance-wise, physically, strength-wise, I feel really good. I’m ready to go."

Luciano's struggles continue

It's getting harder and harder for the Blue Jays to make a case that Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano deserves a spot on the 25-man roster. Luciano is still considered a strong contender to head north on Opening Day, but his results in Florida have been anything but pretty.

Luciano was brought into Wednesday's game against the Braves with runners on the corners and nobody out in the sixth. Luciano did not retire any of the three batters he faced -- issuing two walks and a hit -- and he has now allowed 11 runs on 12 hits and seven walks over 6 2/3 innings this spring.

"We were hoping that he’ll get like four or five outs to stretch him out a little bit," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "That was good to see what he can do. For the first time he looked nervous because he’s not throwing strikes but, I mean, he’s 19-years-old so we have to be patient. He’s got a great arm so hopefully his next outing he’ll come back and throw strikes."

Up next for the Blue Jays

Right-hander Sam Gaviglio will take the mound when the Blue Jays visit the Phillies on Thursday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Gaviglio is competing for a spot in Toronto's bullpen and if he doesn't make it, the 28-year-old is expected to be in the starting rotation for Triple-A Buffalo.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.