Rays prospect Ronaldo Hernandez relished big chance in Futures Game

While Wander Franco got all the attention, Hernandez had a chance to deliver the walkoff hit.
Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (left) and shortstop Wander Franco represented the Rays well in the Futures Game. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (left) and shortstop Wander Franco represented the Rays well in the Futures Game. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Published July 8

CLEVELAND — Ronaldo Hernandez relished the chance to deliver the key hit in Sunday night’s All-Star Futures Game.

"I definitely wanted to,'' Hernandez said.

The other Rays minor-leaguer on the AL squad didn’t get nearly the attention of top overall prospect Wander Franco, who was in the spotlight for days.

[ MORE RAYS: Wander Franco the center of attention at Futures Game ]

But Hernandez was the one on the spot when he came to the plate with one out in seventh and final regulation inning of the game his team had just tied 2-2 and had the winning run on third.

Unfortunately for Hernandez, hard-throwing Padres prospect Luis Patino was on the mound. And Hernandez lost a tough battle, striking out by chasing a nasty slider out of the zone.

"I was looking for a good pitch to hit,'' Hernandez said in the Progressive Field clubhouse, with Rays exec George Pappas interpreting. "The pitch that I swung at and had the foul tip on (a 98 mph fastball up in the zone), that was my pitch I thought.

"Yeah, I struck out. That wasn't the result I wanted. But I don't look at the strikeout as a being a bad thing here necessarily for me. I was glad the team kept on competing. Yeah we tied, but it was a good game.''

Hernandez, who is playing at advanced Class A Charlotte with Franco, said the overall experience of being chosen for the game and playing with the game’s best young talent was a rewarding one.

"It's been a really wonderful experience,'' Hernandez said. "I tried to soak in all the different moments and enjoy as much as I can being here, the environment of being in this ballpark. It was a very competitive game obviously, we kept competing. It was fun all the way to the very end.''

Hernandez, who took over in the fifth and popped out his first at-bat, was pleased with his work behind the plate, an ongoing challenge he said he has come to embrace and enjoy since being converted from an infielder shortly after signing out of Colombia in August 2014.

[ MORE RAYS: Charlie Morton's performance Sunday a snapshot of his first half ]

"In the beginning I didn’t like it, so what’s been fun is adapting to it and enjoying it,'' he said before the game. "I actually have a really good time with it. So what’s been fun is hating it in the beginning and growing to love it.''

Hernandez and Franco, who started at shortstop and went 1-for-2, are headed back to Florida this morning to rejoin the Stone Crabs, who open a series against Florida in Kissimmee.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays