Pitching the third inning isn’t something Arizona Diamondbacks’ reliever David Hernandez is accustomed to.
During his two seasons with Arizona, Hernandez has been predominantly an eighth inning setup man and a closer. But Tuesday at Salt River Fields, Hernandez pitched the third inning, setting down the San Diego Padres in order during a 6-2 loss.
“I gave up no runs, so that was the ultimate goal,” Hernandez told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf following his stint. “As long as you get three outs before somebody scores, but it felt good — it’s the best I’ve felt so far this spring. I’m starting to crank it up a little more.”
After giving up three earned runs in his first spring outing against the Colorado Rockies February 23, Hernandez has settled down. The 27-year-old right-hander has given up just one earned run in his last three appearances.
Hernandez is also using his time in the Valley this month to hone another pitch — the changeup.
“It’s something I’ve gone into this spring training trying to develop,” he said. “I threw it pretty well (Tuesday) and that’s a good sign going forward.
“I feel like if I can have that third pitch to keep batters off my fastball and curveball, I think I should be more successful.”
According to Fangraphs.com, Hernandez threw the changeup only 3.3 percent of the time in 2012.
Hernandez is also getting back into a normal spring routine after a two-week stint during which he wore the red, white and blue for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Hernandez pitched 1.2 innings in two appearances for the American team, which was ousted in the semifinals after losing to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The transition to spring games after pitching for his country was a little tough for Hernandez.
“It was definitely a different atmosphere compared to pitching in the World Baseball Classic, but it’s something that I was just blessed and honored to be able to have that experience,” he said.
Hernandez also said that despite the fact that the World Baseball Classic is an exhibition tournament held in the spring, coming up short was no fun.
“Losing in Game 5 (of the NLDS to Milwaukee) a few years ago, that was painful, but losing in the World Baseball Classic, we’re not just letting D-backs fans down, we’re letting the whole nation down,” Hernandez said. “It was a different feeling after that loss.”