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030116_davidhernandez_RL Ryan Lawrence/for PhillyVoice

David Hernandez pitched a perfect inning Tuesday when the Phillies opened Grapefruit League play against the Blue Jays.

March 01, 2016

Phillies Notes: Hernandez gets off to perfect start in closer battle

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The favorite for the Phillies open closer’s job made a strong impression in his first outing of the spring – and hopes to add a new weapon to his repertoire that may make him an even more effective ninth-inning option when the team breaks camp in a month.

Veteran right-hander David Hernandez retired each of the three batters he faced in a perfect fourth inning in the Phillies 5-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The 30-year-old could be the most likely candidate for the closer’s job by virtue of the one-year, $3.9 million contract he signed in December.

“Anybody that develops a good changeup you can throw for strikes and keep hitters off-balance – it’s an extremely effective pitch,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “It can make the difference between success and failure. If he can come up with a real good one, it can only help him.”

Hernandez was the only major league free agent the team signed this winter. The other three potential closing candidates – Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica and Ernesto Frieri – are non-roster players in camp on minor league contracts.

Hernandez may be able to bolster his case if he can corral his changeup.

“It’s always been on of those pitches where I work on it and then it’s something I don’t want to get beat on once the season begins,” Hernandez said. “Going into this season, I want to be able to have that pitch, throw it behind in the count. Even today, I got a soft, foul ball swing into the dugout (on one).”

But Hernandez wouldn’t go as far to say he considered himself a three-pitch pitcher.

“Two and a half,” he joked.

Hernandez has had a changeup, to go along with a fastball and curveball, since breaking into the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009. But he’s had been using it with less frequency with nearly each passing year.

Last season, the changeup accounted for just 1.9 percent of the pitches he threw.

“Anybody that develops a good changeup you can throw for strikes and keep hitters off-balance – it’s an extremely effective pitch,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “It can make the difference between success and failure. If he can come up with a real good one, it can only help him.”

Hernandez has the rest of the spring to become more confident with his changeup. On Tuesday, he was simply glad to start his Phillies career off with a clean inning.

“You get the butterflies going, you jog in for your first appearance – I was happy,” he said. “I threw strikes, That’s huge. It’s always good to start with a good outing. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

"He threw strikes and he had a clean inning out there," Mackanin said. "I liked what I saw."


The Other J.P.

 J.P. Arencibia, likely known by many Phillies fans as the other J.P. in camp, went 2-for-3 with a solo home run in his Phillies against the Blue Jays.

The 30-year-old Arencibia is a veteran of six big league seasons. He is in camp as a non-roster player on a minor-league contract and considered to be at least third on the catching depth chart, behind Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz.

With two other catchers (Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp) widely considered to be among the team’s top prospects, it’s easy to see why there’s been little mention of Arencibia’s name two weeks into camp. But Mackanin isn’t ruling any player out in the final composition of his 25-man roster.

“Everyone (has a chance),” Mackanin said. “That’s why we're opening it up for competition. You never know what can happen. We’re going to take a real good look at everybody and make a decision.”

Ruiz, who started behind the plate on Tuesday, went 1-for-2 with a game-tying, two-run single off Toronto’s Marcus Stroman in the second inning.

Phil-Ins

Jerad Eickhoff (right thumb fracture) threw his second bullpen session of the spring on Monday and expects to face hitters before the end of the week. He could see his first Grapefruit League action next week. … Mackanin said Jimmy Cordero (biceps) has been cleared to begin throwing. “I know he’s got a golden arm,” Mackanin said. “We’re anxious to get a look at him.” … David Buchanan, Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer are all on tap to pitch in Wednesday’s game in Dunedin against the Blue Jays.