By Yusseff Díaz
Let’s get to know former Cleveland Indians prospect Roberto Hernandez.
Former Cleveland Indians prospect Roberto Hernández looked very impressive in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 when he posted a 2-2 record, 2.63 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and opponents hit a paltry .227 against him. His efforts earned him an all-star selection in the league that year.
Right when he was looking like an upcoming pitching prospect he decided to return to Cuba, citing not being able to see his family as the main reason why he returned home. Once he returned to the island he flashed his talents in the Sub 23 Serie Nacional. Armed with 94 mph heater he not only threw a no-hitter during the campaign but also led the league in strikeouts.
The Federation’s upper brass was so impressed with his talent that they included the 19-year-old in the Cuban national team’s incursion in the Can-Am League in 2019, where he hurt his arm in his only start. An outing in which he threw 3.2 innings allowing five hits, two earned runs, and three strikeouts in a no-decision against the New Jersey Jackals.
At the end of last season, he returned from his injury but wasn’t his normal self. But earlier in this pre-season, he showed his pitching coach and ex-Serie Nacional great Ismel Jimenez that he has returned to form. During the Sancti Spiritus Blue Hens workouts, the 19-year-old unleashed a 95 mph fastball and is looking like Cuba’s next great pitching prospect behind Yariel Rodríguez. His recovery has the makings of a historical season in the National Series on the horizon.
How did you stay in shape during the quarantine?
It wasn’t an easy job. When Cuba declared that there was a quarantine this made my job a little harder because in Cuba the same conditions don’t exist for world-class athletes as in other places in the world. With the help of my brother and father who both played baseball, I had to create an environment that was conducive to baseball. Aside from that, I had to keep in contact with my trainers via social media to get my daily training regiment in order. Ismel Jimenez, one of my coaches was a great help during this time. Without his help, I would have never regained my form.
You regained the velocity on your fastball, what did you do to recover from your injury?
I think the main thing that we focused on was strengthening my arm after the injury. Tomás Pardo Hernández was fundamental in my recovery, he was essential in creating an environment conducive to my recovery. I owe him my career and I thank him every day. Because of him plenty of athletes on the island make recoveries from their injuries.
It’s been a little over a year since your return to the island. Are you satisfied with your decision to return?
I will never second guess myself on this decision. Since my return, many beautiful things have happened to me. This most important one was being able to spend quality time with my family and that is something that is sacred for my family and I. Now that I’m fully recovered from my injury the sky’s the limit.
In your time with the Cleveland Indians tell me something that you learned that made you a better pitcher?
You learn a lot of things being inside of a professional organization and the best baseball in the world. The main concept that I learned was how to be a professional in every sense of the word. Being a professional isn’t only between the lines, it also applies to one’s personal life. Being a good athlete, friend, teammate, father, and son also encompasses this definition. Just because one signs a professional contract that doesn’t one is a professional, being a professional has many more things to it and many people outside the lines don’t understand that. I want to strive for perfection in everything I do.
You made two outings in the now-defunct Can-Am League. Compare the talent levels in Cuba and in that league?
It’s no secret that with all the defections that the talent level in Cuba has diminished. If we are going to compare it to the Can-Am I would have to say that the league is a notch above ours, for the simple fact that they are more organized and have a semblance of professionalism, something that is lacking in Cuba. Now we can make our baseball what it once was but we need a group effort from all our up and coming athletes to reach that plateau.
What is your goal for the season?
I don’t really like to set goals. A wise man once told me that the tongue doesn’t have a bone and things on paper don’t always come to fruition. I’m going to give it all in between the lines and see the fruits of my labor payoff. But putting up good numbers between the lines will get me to where I want to go in the near future. I don’t want to talk about numbers I just want to go out there and let my pitching speak for itself.
Would you like to play professional baseball again in the near future?
Although I don’t set goals that would probably be my only goal. If I can stay healthy I have no doubt I can attain this goal once again. Better said being a professional again is one of my expectations. With the grace of God and my hard work I know I can reach that level once again.