Likely starter Hernandez gets off to rocky start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Cole Hamels misses the beginning of the season, the Phillies might use a fifth starter to get through the first couple of weeks of April.

Then again, they could work the rotation so they only use four starters until he returns.

But barring an unforeseen development, Phillies right-hander Roberto Hernandez will be in the rotation. He signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract in December and is a near certainty to get his share of starts this season. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and others are in camp, but it is highly unlikely the Phillies paid Hernandez to start the season in the bullpen.

Hernandez struggled in two innings Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays in the Grapefruit League opener at Bright House Field, which was called in the middle of the seventh because of rain. The righty allowed a solo home run to Jose Bautista in the first inning and two drives off the wall in the second inning to score a run.

"Everything was up," Hernandez said. "I don't know what happened today. I'll continue to work, get ready for my next start and keep the ball down."

"He threw more four-seamers than he normally does," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He pitched behind the count, and the balls that were hit were four-seamers for the most part. They were up a little bit. A couple of those balls, in my opinion, were wind-aided to center field. It didn't sound so good off the bat."

Hernandez allowed 24 home runs in 151 innings last season with the Rays. The Phillies believe that number will improve. But he also has a 5.19 ERA over the past three seasons, so he will need to produce to keep his job. The Rays eventually put him in the bullpen last season because of his struggles.

"Whenever I get the ball, I try to pitch, keep the ball down and get outs," Hernandez said. "I don't have control if I'm moved to bullpen or if I'm starting. But I like starting. ... I feel very good. I'm ready to compete in the season."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.