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Reds sign righty Hernandez to 2-year contract

With $5 million deal, veteran provides experience, bullpen stability
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- With a couple of weeks remaining before Spring Training, the Reds further bolstered their bullpen on Tuesday with the signing of right-hander David Hernandez to a two-year contract worth $5 million.

Hernandez, 32, will earn $2.5 million each in 2018 and '19, but he can earn up to an additional $1 million per year in bonus money based on appearances and games finished. His addition puts the team's 40-man roster at its limit.

CINCINNATI -- With a couple of weeks remaining before Spring Training, the Reds further bolstered their bullpen on Tuesday with the signing of right-hander David Hernandez to a two-year contract worth $5 million.

Hernandez, 32, will earn $2.5 million each in 2018 and '19, but he can earn up to an additional $1 million per year in bonus money based on appearances and games finished. His addition puts the team's 40-man roster at its limit.

"I feel like I'll have an opportunity to pitch late in the game and hopefully lock down some big outs," Hernandez said. "Whether it's late in the game or it's early in the game, I'm just looking forward to helping guys get better, and hopefully we can see some growth this year. I'm just looking forward to getting back to work."

Video: Sheldon on Hernandez agreeing to a two-year deal

As the Reds' rotation struggled to provide innings last season, problems filtered down to the younger bullpen that finished 2017 ranked 14th out of 15 National League clubs with a 4.65 ERA. Hernandez should provide some stability.

In 64 games with the Angels and D-backs last season, Hernandez had a 3.11 ERA and 1.036 WHIP over his 55 innings of work. His year began by signing a Minor League deal with the Giants before he was released in Spring Training and moved on to the Braves' Triple-A club. Then he was dealt to the Angels in late April. Arizona, his club from 2011-15, traded for him on July 31 to help with the postseason push.

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Once he realized he was not going to make the Giants' big league club in spring, Hernandez added a third pitch. He calls it a "slider/cutter kind of thing," but it's helped complement his fastball and curveball.

"I had some success, so I kind of mixed it in as the season went on," Hernandez said.

Video: NYY@LAA: Hernandez induces groundout to earn save

 Being late in the winter, Hernandez was concerned about finding a new club before camps opened.

"It was a long offseason, you know," Hernandez said. "You get a little frustrated, and you kind of think you're going to have to go the route you did the previous year. I kind of just waited, waited and waited some more. I really connected to Cincinnati and put things together, and it all happened quickly. It's weird."

Hernandez had Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow and missed all of 2014, but his comeback has been mostly successful. He had a 4.28 ERA in 40 games with Arizona in '15 and a 3.84 ERA over 70 appearances with the Phillies in '16.

"He pitched in the postseason last year, he brings that type of experience to us," general manager Dick Williams said. "He's a strike thrower. He had one of the better walk rates among all qualified relievers last year. … He's not a platoon guy. He gets left-handed and right-handed batters out. So we just liked him."

Video: LAA@HOU: Hernandez K's Gurriel, side in the 7th

The signing of Hernandez locks down at least a fourth bullpen spot for Cincinnati. He will join closer Raisel Iglesias, lefty setup man Wandy Peralta and right-hander Jared Hughes, who was signed to a two-year, $4.25 million contract on Dec. 26. Williams envisioned someone competing for the rotation who doesn't make the starting five would get the fifth bullpen spot. Last year's righty setup man, Michael Lorenzen, is one of those pitchers.

Two other spots will be up for grabs among relievers Austin Brice, Kevin Shackelford, Zack Weiss, Ariel Hernandez, Jimmy Herget, Vance Worley and others.

Williams expects to make more moves and said there is room in the budget. But with a full roster, any signing would likely be a Minor League deal.

"We do have some areas we want to address," Williams said. "We want to make sure we've got enough depth on the bench, and specifically, we want to make sure the [backup] shortstop position is covered. So you could see some deals there."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, David Hernandez