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Hernandez earning Cora's trust out of bullpen

Sox's top pitching prospect could pitch in high-leverage situations
@IanMBrowne
July 26, 2019

BOSTON -- Already bolstered by the return of Nathan Eovaldi and his triple-digit heat, the Red Sox have another weapon emerging in the bullpen who throws in the high 90s in Darwinzon Hernandez. The 22-year-old prospect has been used in low-leverage situations since his promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket on July

BOSTON -- Already bolstered by the return of Nathan Eovaldi and his triple-digit heat, the Red Sox have another weapon emerging in the bullpen who throws in the high 90s in Darwinzon Hernandez.

The 22-year-old prospect has been used in low-leverage situations since his promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 16, but that could change soon as he continues to build manager Alex Cora's trust.

In four outings since his call-up, Hernandez has pitched a scoreless inning each time out. He has two walks and nine strikeouts while allowing just one hit.

Hernandez is showing why he is Boston's No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and first among pitchers.

Used mainly as a starter in the Minor Leagues, Hernandez's stuff is really playing up in short stints.

"I think it benefits him now," said Cora. "It's not like he thinks he's going five or six innings and has to set up hitters. It's, 'Just throw my best stuff and put a good swing on it. I have a pretty good chance to get you out anyway.' I think it helps him. His composure on the mound has been good. Let's see when it's a higher-leverage situation, but so far, so good."

Cora hinted that those higher-leverage situations could be coming.

"Little by little," said Cora. "Just like [Josh Taylor]. Early in the season it was like, 'OK, a lefty with stuff. Let's see how it goes.' Now JT is one of the guys we use in close situations. There are going to be close situations that, yeah, we'll use Darwinzon."

It remains to be seen whether Hernandez projects better as a reliever or a starter beyond this season.

"Just such a small sample size for me," said Cora. "There are other people who have seen him longer than me, but I like this guy; the fact is that he's in our bullpen right now and is going to help us."

Early returns on Moreland encouraging

First baseman Mitch Moreland, who returned earlier this week from a right quad injury, was out of the lineup against lefty James Paxton on Friday night after starting for three straight days.

Moreland had a good night on Thursday, going 2-for-3 and scoring twice. Most importantly, he went from first to third without any ill effects from the quad.

"I mean, we told him to be smart," said Cora. "He will never be fast. We're good with where he's at. He went first to third twice and he scored whatever, so we're good with that. Kind of like [Rafael Devers] in the White Sox series [in June]. Like, be smart about it. A single is a single. A double is a double. We don't mind station to station with him. We've got the other guys."

Bogaerts-Devers, a dominant duo

It just so happens that the two most productive players for the Red Sox this season play together on the left side of the infield and are also close friends. To anyone who watches the club every day, it's hard to say who has been more valuable to the team this season -- shortstop Xander Bogaerts or third baseman Devers.

But they are a devastating duo batting second and third behind Mookie Betts.

"They're young, they compete every day, not only on the field but playing cards, playing dominoes," said Cora. "It really doesn't matter. They're always competing, which is great. What they've done this year is unreal. It's fun to watch. The way they hit the ball and the structure, and the communication factor has been great. And the defense, people don't talk too much about their defense, and they've been solid. They're so young. We're in a good place [on the left side of the infield]."

Considering that Bogaerts just signed a six-year contract extension and Devers is under the contractual control of the Red Sox through 2023, they should be teammates for years to come.

"One is 22, the other one is 26. Not too many teams can say that. One has 81 RBIs and the other one 80," said Cora. "On-base percentage, driving the ball, everything they do, playing hard, running the bases, we don't have enough time to talk about those two. We're in a good place. Those two guys are very important for this team not only now, but for the future. And the joy they play with is contagious."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.