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The Curious Case of Jesse Hernandez

After pitching reasonably well for Lansing, right-hander Jesse Hernandez was promoted to Dunedin in June.  I assumed this was a product of his good work but should have realized the call up coincided with Sean Nolin’s injury.  Whatever the reason and after some indifferent early performances, Jesse came into his own in Dunedin.  This was capped by the 8 2/3 innings of no hit

ball he threw against St Lucie.  After making one more start in Dunedin, Hernandez was inexplicably sent back to Lansing.  Why would you demote a 23-year-old when he was getting the job done at a higher level?  As it turns out, Hernandez was likely just injury cover for Nolin.

Ok, I’m with the Jay’s thinking so far.  Hernandez’s rotation spot in Lansing had been filled by spot starts from, amongst others, Blake McFarland.  With Lansing winning the first half title, their playoff position was guaranteed, and maybe they wanted a set rotation heading into the post-season.  Which is why the next coupe of moves had me scratching my head.  After making a few appearances for Dunedin, Nolin was promoted to New Hampshire.  Based on his season, this was a no-brainer.  Nolin was too good for the Florida State League.   To replace Nolin in Dunedin the organization promoted, you guessed it, Jesse Hernandez.  Although this makes sense based on his play and other reasons described above, I just don’t get the reasoning of sending him to Lansing while Nolin got a few reps in Dunedin.  The Jays must have known that Nolin would not be in the FSL for long once he was back from injury, so why yo-yo a guy when his position in Lansing had been filled by spot starters anyway?

With Lansing 12 games away from their playoffs, I would have thought now would be the time to set the rotation you want for a playoff run.  That would give all the starters roughly two more starts.  Having McFarland spot start, then move to the bullpen, now seemingly start again is perplexing.  Not only because he doesn’t have a defined role so late in the season, but because he also hasn’t been particularly good.

In Vancouver, Javier Avendano has been lights out all season.  In his last 10 starts he’s struck out 63 against 14 walks in 53 innings and has won Northwest League pitcher of the week honours twice.  Why, if the organization knew Nolin would be sent to Double-A, would the Jays not just leave Hernandez in Dunedin and replace him full stop in Lansing with Avendano?  Javier actually started the season in Lansing in a relief role.  Once the short season teams got their schedule underway he was re-assigned to stretch out a bit as a starter.  This being his fourth year of pro-ball, and effectively his repeat year with a short season club, surely he would have been told that if he does well, a promotion is on the cards, right?  I understand the C’s are in the midst of a playoff push, and the Jays have always been enthusiastic about getting their prospects playoff experience, but at the cost of leaving a player at a level below where he should be?

Now, I’m sure the Jays team of minor league coordinators (who are a lot smarter than me) have a plan in place, but with two teams already guaranteed playoff berths, and a third fighting for one, it seems logical to lock up the starting staffs now.  That way, the pitchers in question know how many starts they’ll have left in the season, where they’ll be, and what sort of role they’ll play come playoff time.  Hitters are more flexible, highlighted by the slew of recent call-ups from Bluefield to Vancouver, but pitchers seem to work better on a strict schedule.

Not leaving Hernandez in Dunedin while promoting Avendano to replace him was odd.  In fact, leaving Avendano in Vancouver full stop is odd.  I’ll be interested to see if there’s more moves to be made as the minor league teams season draw to a close.  In fact, with the Jays season in disarray, how the affiliates fare come playoff time are the last remaining bits of hope I have for the 2012 season.

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