Back in March when we thought we still lived on a semi-normal planet and things were still looking like we’d have a typical baseball season, Darwinzon Hernandez was one of the more exciting players on the Red Sox roster. The lefty had some buzz building to get another shot as a starter, but at the very least he appeared to be a potentially electric late-inning arm. We had seen the stuff as a rookie, and were excited for a second year. Unfortunately, Hernandez tested positive for COVID as the team was coming back together in late-June. The good news is he recovered from the virus, but he didn’t quite look the same upon his return and was eventually put on the injured list with a sprained SC joint.
Now, he’s coming back. Prior to Friday’s series opener against the Yankees, they reinstated Hernandez from the injured list. To make room on the roster, Robinson Leyer was sent back down to Pawtucket.
Red Sox activate Darwinzon Hernandez from the IL and option Robinson Leyer to Pawtucket.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) September 18, 2020
As I mentioned above, Hernandez didn’t quite look like his 2019 self in his short time in the majors this summer. The southpaw tossed just 4 2⁄3 innings over three appearances for the Red Sox earlier this year, not allowing a run with seven strikeouts and three walks. The numbers look fine, of course, but what stood out was that he was sitting about a mile and a half per hour below 2019’s velocity and just generally wasn’t getting the whiffs he did a year ago.
I am actually a bit surprised they brought him back at all. While I’m not sure how much of an issue the shoulder actually was — I thought at the time this may have been an issue of not having enough time to fully ramp up after his late start to camp — there is still a risk in getting him ready to go for just nine games in a lost season. That said, I’m obviously intrigued to see what he looks like, and if he can come back strong that can build some positive momentum looking ahead to 2021.
On the other side of this move, Leyer goes back down after a rough stint in the majors. The righty clearly has the stuff that can play in a big-league bullpen with his fastball and slider, but the command is far away from where it needs to be. In 4 2⁄3 innings he allowed a whopping 11 runs (21.21 ERA) with nine strikeouts and eight walks. His stuff is enticing enough that I can see the team wanting to give him another look in camp next spring, but I suspect he could be in trouble of losing a 40-man spot this winter.