Hernandez's experience adds to 'pen
Sixteen-year veteran provides Tribe with leadership
Hernandez does, however, find himself fighting bad habits. "Sometimes I completely forget about the inside half [against lefties]," he said. "When that happens, they just pepper me to left field. So I've got to get out of that trap." That Hernandez is still figuring out such things about his game is a testament to baseball's lifelong learning demands. "I may be a veteran," he said, "but the day you stop learning new things is the day you'd better pack it up and go home." When Hernandez packs up his Spring Training luggage and begins a new season, he'll likely do so as one of the Indians' primary setup men. He has 326 saves in 960 career appearances, but he wasn't signed to close games. He was, however, signed with the hope that his body will remain fit to perform. "I can pitch you an inning every day," he said. "I prepare my mind and body for that." That body has held up well over the years. Hernandez has had four stints on the DL over the years, but three of those trips went the minimum of 15 days and the fourth -- a right elbow strain at the beginning of his 2002 season with the Royals -- only cost him a month of action. "I've had a little tendinitis here and there, but in 16 years of throwing the baseball, I've never had a major arm surgery," he said. "I've been blessed to be able to compete and do this." And the fact that he's still doing it, he believes, makes any words of wisdom he has for the Tribe's youngsters carry a little more resonance. "I think it weighs more if you're active and walking the same steps with them," he said. "Because you can talk the talk, but also try to walk it, too."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.