MIAMI — What, him worry?
Roberto Hernandez brushed aside his critics and any concerns about keeping his job in the Rays rotation with a stellar, nearly complete-game outing in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Marlins.
Hernandez looked every bit like the pitcher the Rays talked about when they signed him, working 8⅔ innings while allowing only three hits, burying his sinker and getting 12 ground-ball outs and rolling through six 1-2-3 innings.
Which meant he looked nothing like his past two outings, when he lasted a total of six innings, allowing 10 runs on 14 hits, including three home runs.
"Last time I talked to you, I say whenever they give me the opportunity to go to the mound, I have to try to do my job. Everyone knows the last two times were very, very bad," Hernandez said.
"When they give me the ball today, I don't think about that. I think about trying to throw strikes and a good game. I don't worry about something before, I worry about today."
And lest you think Hernandez was the only one who wasn't concerned about his job status, Rays manager Joe Maddon said there was nothing to worry about.
"He wasn't pitching for his starting life tonight. He wasn't," Maddon said. "But it was nice to see that happen. He had those two rough outings, but he had pitched relatively well prior to that, I had thought."
The impressive outing, Hernandez's longest since a Sept. 10, 2010 complete game for Cleveland, was good for his confidence, Maddon said: "Psychologically, it's really important for him."
Actually, it was pretty big for the whole team, which improved to a season-high four games over .500 at 28-24. Ace David Price is still out, and Alex Cobb's next start will be pushed back at least a few days due to a cut on his right middle finger, with Alex Colome making his big-league debut tonight.
The Rays made it easier for Hernandez, scoring twice before he took the mound, opening with three consecutive hits off Miami's Tom Koehler and adding insurance in the seventh before 16,671 at Marlins Park.
Hernandez gave up a leadoff double to former East Lake High standout Chris Coghlan that led to a run — in part because Hernandez didn't back up third well — then retired 26 of the next 27. He was in rhythm, and control. "A really calm Roberto,'' catcher Jose Molina said. "Less hyper.''
Though Hernandez (3-5, 4.87) started the ninth with only 84 pitches, Maddon said his plan was that if anyone got on, he would summon closer Fernando Rodney, who has had troubles of his own. So after Placido Polanco singled with two outs, Maddon said it wasn't much of a decision between the benefit of letting Hernandez finish or letting Rodney get what, in theory, should be an easy save. Before getting to the mound, he signaled to the pen.
"I think all emotional benefits were met," Maddon said. "I think 8⅔ and getting a win benefits Roberto, and I think the emotional benefit of a one-out save helps Fernando a bit. That was a part of my overall thinking at that point: Both guys could benefit right now if this thing works out this way.
"So moving forward, I think it makes us better."