Bucs happy to have Hernandez back with club
Outfielder made his debut with Pittsburgh after coming from Detroit in 2012
DETROIT -- As he does every time the schedule brings him to Detroit, Michigan-born-and-raised Clint Hurdle talks emotionally about the chance to return to his roots. But the Pirates' manager isn't the only one who has come home.
Bucs outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is experiencing a double-homecoming. He was originally signed by the Tigers as a 17-year-old free agent from Venezuela in 2005. And, more importantly, Hernandez has been brought back by the team with which he made his big league debut in '12.
The Pirates had also been the first ones to give up on him in mid-2012. By a couple of years later, three other organizations had given up on him. Given another shot by the Pirates on a Minor League contract in December, Hernandez started working his way back into their consciousness in Spring Training.
"He caught our eye in Spring Training. He was a different player than the one we saw the last time he was here in a Pirates uniform," said Hurdle, recalling Hernandez's .407 average and 1.132 OPS in 15 Grapefruit League games. "As much as anything, we wanted to see his bat here."
Prior to his promotion on Sunday, when he replaced Jose Tabata (designated for assignment) on the roster, Hernandez had hit .275 for Triple-A Indianapolis, with 12 doubles, three triples and five homers. That may not seem a very compelling Minor League average, but bear in mind we are talking about an exceptional fielder.
"He's a premium defender at all three spots," Hurdle said. "A plus-plus and accurate arm, speed still above average. And his bat has been consistent. We wanted to dig deeper into his skill set at this level, so moving forward, we can say, 'Here's what Jose Tabata is, here's what Gorkys Hernandez is.'"
Touching all the bases
• First: Brad Fischer will take a turn coaching first base in this series, as Nick Leyva was away on personal business.
• Second: Left-hander Daniel Zamora, the Bucs' 40th-round pick, became the 28th of the Pirates' 41 selections in the Draft to sign a contract, and he was assigned to the West Virginia Black Bears.
• Third: The Bucs had been third in the National League in homers in each of the last two seasons, but they entered Tuesday night's game 13th in the NL with 56 taters.
• Home: University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh delivered the ceremonial first pitch prior to Tuesday night's game, and the Tigers had Hurdle to thank for that.
Looking forward to his regular visit with Hurdle, Jon Falk, the Wolverines' longtime equipment manager, texted to ask if it was alright if Harbaugh tagged along.
"I'm like, 'Really? You have to ask?'" said Hurdle. "They reached out and the Tigers found out, and figured, 'Why not go ahead and [have] him fire one forward?'"