I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Tulsa Drillers starting pitcher Carlos Hernandez. The southpaw is putting together a solid season at the Double-A level, with his 2.71 ERA ranking him third among all Texas League pitchers (as of games of August 13). He’s a strong candidate to capture the Texas League Pitcher of the Year Award, with his 4.39 K/BB ratio and 4.0 BB% serving as league bests, and his 2.81 FIP is second only to teammate Tyler Anderson’s 2.79.
How was the adjustment for you when you joined the Rockies organization in the offseason after being in the Oakland farm system for seven seasons?
At first, it was weird. I didn’t know any of the coaches. I didn’t know anyone in the front office. I didn’t know anyone. Someone would tell me to go talk to a coach and I’d have to ask which coach they were talking about. It took me a little bit of time. After about a month, I had adjusted to everything. I was suddenly around different guys with different personalities.
Being in a new organization, did you feel you had something to prove?
No. I was focusing on being consistent and just throwing strikes. I was focused on getting outs. There wasn’t any pressure for me. I knew wherever I was assigned, I was going to work hard to give my team a chance to win every time I took the mound.
When you knew you were coming back to Double-A and the Texas League, what were your thoughts?
I was more familiar with the Texas League, but I also thought, “Again?” After I thought about it, I was happy to have a job and be able to play this game, no matter where I was playing. I’m a little older now and I want to focus on what I have to do every game. When I’m on the mound, I’m not thinking about where I am. I’m just doing my job.
You’ve had stops in Triple-A but have never made the majors. How much does that creep into your mind?
When I’m off the field, I think about it. I wonder when I’m going to get that opportunity. However, I also know this is a business. I know it can be hard to move up so I take things one game at a time and focus on what I can do where I am.
You played part of the previous five seasons for the Midland RockHounds. Now you’re in the other dugout when Tulsa plays them. Is that strange for you?
It’s a little weird. I know all of those guys. They know me. They could pull a bunch of reports on me and know exactly what I’m going to throw on what count.
Note: The inside knowledge hasn’t seemed to help Midland this season as Hernandez has allowed just one earned run in 15.1 innings of work against the RockHounds.
You’ve had a solid season here in Tulsa. Did you change anything in the offseason?
No. I think my velocity has dropped a little bit. I’ve been playing year-round, including in the offseason in Venezuela, and that puts a lot of wear and tear on your arm. With that, I’ve been throwing my fastball-cutter combo and relying on it. When it’s working, that’s always a plus.
With Tulsa winning the first-half title and knowing you’ve secured a playoff spot, has that changed anything for you in the second half of the season?
No, I have the same mentality every game. We know we already made the playoffs, but that doesn’t change anything about the current game. I still have a job to do and I have to get ready the same way every game.