Hernandez, Miranda Add Versatility to Ducks

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Earlier today, the Ducks announced the signings of right-handed pitcher Fernando Hernandez and utility infielder Sergio Miranda. These additions bring the current roster count to 16 with just over a month left before the start of the 2014 season. Both Hernandez and Miranda will begin their first season with Long Island and join a roster already loaded with Ducks and Atlantic League experience. In fact, Hernandez and Miranda represent only the fifth and sixth players on the current roster who have yet to play with the Flock.

As a utility infielder, Miranda offers flexibility to the Ducks lineup. The 27-year-old has experience at every infield position throughout his six-year minor league career. Though the Virginia native did not play last season, he will certainly be depended on as a utility player, similar to Shawn Williams in 2012 and P.J. Phillips in 2013. Miranda’s versatility provides manager Kevin Baez with a valuable roster piece.

As for the pitching staff, Long Island has emphasized bringing back several pitchers from the 2012 and 2013 championship squads. Hernandez joins Casey Barnes as the only other pitcher on the staff that has not previously played for the Ducks, though he was right across the diamond watching the Ducks celebrate last year’s championship. The 29-year-old has actually had two stints in the Atlantic League, including seven scoreless appearances with the Somerset Patriots last year. It was that experience that led him to signing with the Ducks.

“It pretty much came out of nowhere,” Hernandez told us in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I had in mind that I was going to Mexico, but the team I played for last year sold the team, so I was pretty much out of a job. I just tried to make contact with some of the teams in the Atlantic League to see who had an opportunity for me. Long Island got back to me and said they had a bullpen spot. I let them know that I could start or do whatever they needed me to do, and they gave me an opportunity.”

The Miami native began his career as a reliever in the Chicago White Sox organization, tallying 58 saves over his first seven years in professional baseball. That led to a selection by the Oakland Athletics in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft, meaning Hernandez had his best opportunity yet to pitch in the Majors.

“I thought I was going to get protected, and I didn’t,” Hernandez recalled. “I got picked up by Oakland in the Rule 5, went to Spring Training, pitched and made the team.”

Making the team meant that the Broward Community College alum was on a Major League roster. The excitement did not end there for Hernandez though, as he quickly got an opportunity to go up against the best of the best.

“It was a dream come true! Not a lot of guys get to experience that,” he recalled. “It was pretty awesome, especially when the first player I faced in the Major Leagues was Frank Thomas and that fact that I got my first win in my first outing. It is something that I dreamed of as a kid, and it actually happened.”

Hernandez now enters a Ducks pitching staff as a versatile arm, capable of both starting games and entering as a reliever. With a starting rotation already featuring John Brownell, Shaun Garceau and Bobby Blevins, along with several other pitchers signed that can start and relieve, Hernandez might see the majority of his work come out of the bullpen.

“I told them that I wanted to be a starter,” Hernandez said. “They told me that their starter spots were already full, so I said ‘that’s fine, I can throw out of the bullpen too.’ I told them that I have done it all: long relief, short relief, closer, set-up. Whatever they want to use me as for the team, I will go in there and do what I have done my entire career.”

It is that kind of flexibility that will be a welcomed addition to the Ducks pitching staff. Hernandez joins a formidable cast of arms that also includes Barnes, Eric Niesen and both Jared and Josh Lansford.

The quest of becoming the first team in Atlantic League history to win three consecutive championships is on for the Ducks. The additions of Miranda and Hernandez have helped fortify the 2014 roster, and surely more additions will still be made. Ducks fans have had several reasons to get excited about defending a pair of championships this year, and two more were added to that list today.

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Posted on March 18, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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