Royals keep watchful eye on righty Hernandez

February 26th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Arnaldo Hernandez's rise through the Royals' Minor League system has been nothing short of meteoric.

Where he goes from here is all up to him.

"He's going to create his own trajectory," manager Ned Yost said on Monday. "I'm going to sit back and watch, and give him an opportunity to see how far he can go."

Hernandez, 23, started the 2018 season at Class A Advanced Wilmington before getting promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and then finally to Triple-A Omaha, where he went 5-1 with a 3.55 ERA in the Pacific Coast League.

"When I talk to all our player development people, they keep telling me that he's coming fast, so it will be interesting to watch his progress here," Yost said. "He's handled everything really well to this point. He's not overmatched. He's doing the program just like you would want him to."

On Monday, Hernandez, ranked as the club's No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, entered with one out in the fifth inning with runners on first and third base in the Royals' 12-5 loss to the Rockies at Surprise Stadium. He struck out the next two batters to end the inning. Hernandez gave up three hits and one run in the sixth. He also struck out another hitter.

"Hernandez was OK in spurts," Yost said.

Barlow battles

Scott Barlow's first pitch of the game on Monday ended up beyond the fence in right field off the bat of Rockies leadoff hitter Raimel Tapia.

The rest of Barlow's afternoon was much better. The right-hander retired the next four batters in order before walking Brendan Rogers with one out in the second. Michael Saunders popped out and Rodgers was caught stealing to end Barlow's two-inning outing.

In the end, Barlow was charged with one run on one hit. He struck out two and more importantly, he was able to mix in his changeup.

"Being able to change speeds gives you more options," Barlow said. "I think the changeups that felt really good were in the bullpen before the game."

Ynoa is back

Once considered the crown jewel of international pitching prospects, right-handed reliever Michael Ynoa has changed his name once and teams three times since signing with the A's as a teenager named Michel in 2008.

He's hoping he's finally found a home in the Royals' organization.

"I've worked hard all year to get this opportunity and thanks to God, I am given the chance here," Ynoa said. "I never lost faith that I would get another opportunity and now it's up to me to do my job."

Traded from Oakland to Chicago in 2014, the 27-year-old Ynoa was released by the White Sox last March. He signed a Minor League deal with Royals in November. In the eight months in between, he worked out and rediscovered his mechanics in the Dominican Republic Winter League.

"I worked on my body, and I'm healthy, but I really haven't changed a lot," Ynoa said. "I have the same pitches and the same mentality. I'm just on a different team with the same goals to make it to the big leagues."

Ynoa, who is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Dodgers, earned a contract from the Royals after going 1-1 with a 0.98 ERA in 18 1/3 innings for Aguilas Cibaenas in the D.R. He struck out 24 and only walked four batters.

"He threw the ball so well in winter ball, and we were watching," Yost said. "We don't miss much. There are agent guys down there looking to bounce back like Michael was, we got our eyes on them."

Worth noting

• The Royals celebrated Jorge Soler's 27th birthday on the practice field during the morning stretch. A few hours later, the outfielder put his own stamp on the special day with a solo home run in the second inning against the Rockies to tie the game at 1.

• Center fielder Bubba Starling hit two home runs on Monday. He also hit two home runs last July at Surprise Stadium while on rehab assignment.

"It's encouraging," Yost said. "It's too early. ... It's a good day hitting two homers. You got to continue, but he looks good right now."

Up next

Right-hander Ian Kennedy will make his spring debut for the Royals on Tuesday against the Dodgers at Surprise Stadium in a split-squad game at 2:05 p.m. CT. Ynoa, Wily Peralta, Scott Blewett and Tim Hill are also scheduled to pitch. Foster Griffin, Ben Lively, Brad Boxberger, Josh Staumont and Jake Newberry will pitch against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.