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Red Sox add pitcher Gaby Hernandez

02.10.10 at 5:09 pm ET

The Red Sox claimed right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners. The 23-year-old spent 2009 with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate, going 10-9 with a 5.23 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 48 walks in 146-1/3 innings. He had a strong finish to the season, going 5-0 in his last five starts.

Hernandez has been at times a highly regarded prospect. Two years ago, for instance, he was rated the No. 5 prospect in the Florida Marlins system on the strength of a three-pitch arsenal (fastball, curve, change) and an ability to compete effectively against more advanced competition. At the time, the publication offered this evaluation:

Acquired from the Mets in the Paul LoDuca salary dump, the hometown Miami kid keeps impressing as he climbs the ladder. Hernandez annually has been among the youngest players at each level, but that has yet to catch up with him.

Strengths: Hernandez’ tight curveball comes and goes but still ranks as the best in the system. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94 mph with good deception. His changeup is improving and shows plus life at times. He has proven to be durable, missing time in 2006 with a minor toe injury but having no other physical problems of note. He has a well-developed frame and good athleticism.

Weaknesses: Hernandez wore down in the final month, when he posted an 8.48 ERA, and may have put too much pressure on himself with a potential big league callup dangling in front of him. He needs to be more consistent and do a better job of resisting the urge to pitch backward. He can overthink at times and be too self-critical.

The Future: Hernandez will come to spring training with a chance to make the Marlins rotation, but more likely he will go to Triple-A Albuquerque for a few additional months of seasoning. Once he makes it to Florida, he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation piece who can eat up valuable innings.

Since then, however, Hernandez has struggled in consecutive years, posting a 6-9 record and 6.08 ERA in 2008 while splitting time between Double A and Triple A, and then producing last year’s struggle at Tacoma. Still, at 23, Hernandez still is young enough that his former prospect status should not be completely forgotten. He has two minor league options remaining for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

To clear a 40-man roster spot for Hernandez, the Sox designated right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel (claimed off waivers from the Mariners earlier in the offseason) for assignment. Manuel tossed 4-1/3 scoreless innings for the Reds in the majors last year.

Here is the Sox’ press release about the addition of Hernandez:

The Red Sox today claimed right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners and designated right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel for assignment.

The announcement was made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.

Hernandez, 23, spent all of last year with Seattle’€™s Triple-A Tacoma affiliate, posting a 10-9 record with a 5.23 ERA (85 ER/146.1 IP), 98 strikeouts and 48 walks in 26 starts. He led the Rainiers in wins and ranked second in innings and strikeouts. Hernandez won each of his final five starts and earned Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week honors for August 31-Sepember 8, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA (3 ER/15.0 IP) over that stretch.

He was originally selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and has played in the Mets (2004-05), Florida Marlins (2006-08) and Mariners (2008-09) organizations.

Manuel, 26, was claimed off waivers by Boston from Seattle on November 20. He made his Major League debut last year for the Cincinnati Reds, allowing five hits in 4.1 scoreless innings over three relief appearances. He has played in the Mets (2005), Reds (2006-09) and Mariners (2009) organizations after signing with New York as an amateur free agent in 2005.

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