"He Wants to be Great" Jonathan Hernández is Turning Heads Out of the Rangers Bullpen

Chris Halicke

ARLINGTON, Texas — All optimism regarding the 2020 Texas Rangers has been built on the starting rotation. Four games into the season, the rotation has held up its end of the deal, despite a key injury to Corey Kluber just one inning into his Rangers debut. 

However, the skepticism surrounding the Rangers lineup has been proven true in the first four games. The number of questions surrounding the lineup heading into the season have been warranted given the way the offense has stumbled out of the gate. The defense has also been quite underwhelming.

Similar questions also revolve around certain figures in a young Rangers bullpen. Only Edinson Vólquez and Jesse Chavez would be considered veterans that have a track record. Everyone else comes with some level of uncertainty.

One youngster who has impressed the club since the beginning of Spring Training is Jonathan Hernández. His 98-mph "turbo sinkers" (dubbed by Rangers manager Chris Woodward) and low-90's slider raise some eyebrows and give him a dangerous combination coming out of the bullpen. Chavez saw the potential in Hernández and took steps to take him under his wing.

“I made it an emphasis with Julio [Rangel] last offseason that I wanted to be his throwing partner just because he reminded me so much of myself," Chavez said. "He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he has some of the biggest, elite stuff coming out of that arm that we’ve seen."

Chris Woodward said Hernández has been proactive about wanting to learn, specifically approaching the coaching staff during his time at Double-A Frisco last year. After Hernández got to Arlington, Woodward saw the similarities between him and Chavez. 

“This Spring Training, I challenged him," Woodward said. "Chavy having the two-seamer, they have a lot of similar characteristics. Jonathan throws a lot harder, but the characteristics and the way there ball moves, Jesse’s done a really good job of helping him understand where to start it, how it moves, how to get swing-and-miss, how to get ahead with it—all of those things." 

Hernández has continued to impress his manager and fellow relievers in the bullpen. He had strong campaigns at Spring Training and Summer Camp. He has also fared well in his first two outings of the regular season. The Rangers are excited with Hernández's potential and believe he has a high ceiling. With the way the 2020 season has started, any help with providing stability on the roster should be welcomed. In addition, the Rangers also seem to have a young pitcher displaying maturity on and off the mound.

"He doesn’t get the recognition for the stuff that he has than most guys do in the game," Chavez said. "Just watching him progress from spring training—the thoughts, the words that he uses, the way he tries to make that ball better, the way he’s playing catch and we talk about it after—it’s hands down incredible to see that come out of him and the will to not want to be good. He wants to be great.”

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