MILWAUKEE – Roberto Hernandez’s spot in the starting pitching rotation will be the subject of debate for Phillies officials during the All-Star break.
Cliff Lee is expected to come off the disabled list (and audition for contending teams) right after the break and the Phillies will need to clear a spot for him.
Unless there’s an injury, a trade or something unforeseen, either Hernandez or David Buchanan will have to come out of the rotation. Hernandez would go to the bullpen if he’s the guy. Buchanan could return to the minors if he’s the guy.
In his final start before the All-Star break Wednesday night, Hernandez stated his case to stay in the rotation.
The right-handed sinkerballer pitched his best game of the season –- eight innings, three singles, one run –- in a 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers (see Instant Replay).
The Brewers are scuffling (they are 1-7 in July) and All-Stars Ryan Braun (back) and Jonathan Lucroy (night off) were out the lineup, but Hernandez was impressive just the same. He got 12 outs on groundballs. He is now 4-8 with a 4.22 ERA.
Buchanan, 4-5 with a 4.82 ERA in nine big-league starts, goes for the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.
The Phils have beaten the Brewers in the first three games of the series and can sweep with a win. That’s kind of amazing when you think about it. The Phils lost five of the first six games on this 10-game trip. A win Thursday will give them a .500 trip, but they are still far from contention having been the last team in the NL East to reach 40 wins.
Manager Ryne Sandberg didn’t want to touch the question of who exits the rotation when Lee comes back.
“We’ll make a decision when the time comes,” he said.
Hernandez wasn’t in the mood to talk about it, either.
“I only control pitching,” he said. “I don’t control the decisions. When they give me the ball, I pitch. I want to stay (in the rotation), but I don’t make the decision.”
The game was played in a good-ol’-days two hours, 15 minutes. That’s because Hernandez and his counterpart, Kyle Lohse, were both so efficient. Lohse was hurt by a pair of homers –- a solo shot by Chase Utley in the first and a two-run blow by Jimmy Rollins in the sixth -– in his eight innings of work.
Hernandez threw a very manageable 84 pitches, but Sandberg did not let him go out for the ninth. His reasoning?
“I thought about it,” Sandberg said. “If we would have scored one more run, I would have sent him back out. Other than that, he did his job. Just let (Jonathan) Papelbon have a fresh start.”
Papelbon breezed to his 22nd save and third in as many nights. After the game, he talked about taking his talents to a contending club (see story).
Was Hernandez disappointed about not getting a chance to go for the complete game?
“I control the pitching, not the decisions,” he said.