By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For most of their careers, the H & H Boys have been one-inning situational pitchers. Now, as member of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, David Hernandez and Jared Hughes, the H&H Boys, are pitching multiple innings.
And they are thriving in it and loving it.
“We’ve probably taken them to the limit with their usage,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “They’ve held up very well and done a great job. We are testing their limits and would like to back off a little bit.”
But Hernandez and Hughes say, “Bring it on.” And Riggleman is inclined to not only push that envelope, but to lick it and seal it tight.
Hernandez has appeared in more than one inning 12 times this season and seven of at least two innings. Hurt him? Since May 20 Hernandez owns a 1.30 earned run average (four runs in 27 2/3 innings.
Hughes has pitched more than an inning 13 times and seven times at least two innings. And he has seven saves. Coming into this season he had four career saves in his first seven years in the majors.
“You are trying to win the games and those two quite often have been our best options,” said Riggleman. “I’m glad they like it, because those are our two leaders in the bullpen. They set the tone for everybody else. I don’t want to be responsible for overdoing it and hurting somebody. But I do feel that the last several years we have lowered the bar so much from what we expect from players.”
Hernandez and Hughes are close in the clubhouse, too. Their lockers are close, separated only by a set of double doors that lead to the players dining room.
But they are inseparable in that dark right field corner where they sit in the bullpen awaiting a phone call. Hernandez admits he leeches off Hughes.
“That guy is on top of everything,” said Hernandez. “He has a clipboard down there full of numbers and scouting reports. He shares them and it helps me and helps all the guys out there.
“We try to match each other zero for zero,” said Hernandez, talking about his relationship with Hughes. “And it helps the other guys, too. We enjoy being successful.”
Of his extra innings of work each game, Hernandez said, “They don’t bother me so much. I know I’ve done it a lot more this year than in past years. I feel good and they give me ample time between each appearance. Hey, you throw up a zero in an inning and you get the momentum going the right way so you don’t mind going out there for another one. It has been enjoyable being a super, super reliever.”
Hughes said he is all too happy to share the intelligence he scribbles on his clipboard, “I’m glad to share with my teammates. We all feed off each other in certain aspects. Hernandez and I have faced a lot of the same hitters in the league so we can share those experiences, we have history together. Plus he’ll talk about certain guys he has faced in other divisions I haven’t faced. And I talk to him about guys I’ve faced that he hasn’t.”
And most fans thought all they talked about in the bullpen was restaurants, golf scores (mostly lies), fish they’ve caught (more lies) and their luxury cars.
“One thing I feed off of David is his competitiveness,” said Hughes. “He just thrives on winning. That’s contagious and being around him is outstanding. Every day he rubs off on all of us.”
Riggleman believes, if necessary, there is more to squeeze out of relief pitchers than teams get these days of specialists.
“They can give us more than what we’ve asked of them the last several years,” he said. And he used what teams do in the post-season as an example.
“They are using starters as relievers and using closers for multiple innings,” he said. “They are given a lot of workloads. What that tells me is guys can do more than what we are asking. You’d never do that over a 162-game season, but it can be done for short periods.
“Cleveland did it with Andrew Miller a couple of years ago and the Dodgers did it last year with Kenley Jansen,” said Riggleman. “Joe Maddon (Cubs) did it a couple of years ago with Aroldis Chapman. Those guys took the ball and their clubs won and nobody got hurt.”
A COUPLE OF GREAT stories involving a Reds connection with Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman, both being inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame today.
These stories come from Brad Del Barba, a former Reds Farm Director now working as a scout with the New York Yankees.
“Before he was drafted, we had Thome in old Riverfront Stadium for a workout,” said Del Barba. “He was a wiry kid trying to play shortstop. He couldn’t run, he couldn’t throw and he couldn’t hit. We thanked him for coming. Then we saw him later on and said, ‘What happened?’”
What happened was that Thome hit 612 career home runs and is now in the Hall of Fame.
Trevor Hoffman was an infielder trying to play shortstop at low Class A Charleston, W.Va.
“A great arm, but he couldn’t hit,” said Del Barba. “We told him, ‘You can’t hit, kid. But you have a great arm and should try pitching.’” But Hoffman insisted, “I can hit.” They finally convinced him to take the mound, “And then (former general manager) Jim Bowden exposed him in the expansion draft and the Florida Marlins grabbed him.
“I saw him when he finished his career with Milwaukee, when he was on his way to the Hall of Fame for his career accomplishments as a closer and said, ‘Well, do you still think you can hit?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I think I could have hit.’”
But he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a relief pitcher who recorded 601 saves and, no, he couldn’t hit.
Del Barba’s daughter, Brooklyn, is a collegiate summer intern at the Cooperstown, N.Y. Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
From Reds manager Jim Riggleman on Hall of Fame inductee Chipper Jones: “He seemed to haunt any club I managed, seemed to kill us. I’d look at my pitcher-hitter matchups and with so many of our pitchers I’d say, ‘Wow, Chipper kills this guy.’ What I liked about him was that he was a lot like Pete Rose, who played second, third, first, left, right, anyplace to help the ball club. And that’s what Chipper did by playing shortstop and moving to third base and moving to left field. They never said, ‘Hey, don’t mess with me, I’m a third baseman or I’m a shortstop. Leave me alone.’”