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Baseball / Gary Klein : Hernandez Realizes Uncertainty Goes With Professional Territory

Jeremy Hernandez has learned a few lessons during his three seasons in professional baseball, but one stands out above all others.

“Every time you think you know where you’re at,” Hernandez says, “you’re nowhere near where you think you are.”

Hernandez found that out firsthand this season.

A former Cal State Northridge pitcher who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 1987 draft, Hernandez was 5-4 with a 2.81 earned-run average at Erie, Pa., in the New York-Penn League that summer.

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Last season, he was 12-6 with a 3.54 ERA at Springfield, Ill., in the Class-A Midwest League and seemed to be on his way up through the Cardinals’ chain.

However, on April 24, a half-hour before his scheduled start for the St. Petersburg Cardinals of the Class-A Florida State League, Hernandez was informed that he had been traded to the San Diego Padres for triple-A outfielder Randell Byers.

“At first, I thought it was a joke,” Hernandez said. “It caught me off guard. You sit there and try to figure it out. ‘Are they trying to get rid of you? Does the team you’re going to want you?’ ”

Today, Hernandez is a member of the Riverside Red Wave, the Padres’ affiliate in the Class-A California League.

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“I had seen Jeremy last year and we had good scouting reports on him,” said Tom Romenesko, the Padres’ director of player development. “His numbers at this point don’t mean much to me.”

Initially, Hernandez was sent by the Padres to Charleston, S.C., in the Class-A South Atlantic League where he compiled a 3-5 record and 3.53 ERA before being assigned to Riverside.

Hernandez is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA after pitching seven innings and getting no decision Friday night at home against Palm Springs.

“I felt a lot better coming here,” Hernandez said of his return to California. “The team is a lot stronger and more dependable. In Charleston, we had a lot of real young guys who, just because of their inexperience, they had a lot of learning to do.”

Couch potato: The city of Bend promotes itself as the recreational capital of Oregon.

A timber and tourist town of 20,000, Bend provides access to nearby Mt. Bachelor, which features cross-country and nordic skiing through July. The area also bustles with white-water rafting, cycling, camping, hiking and other outdoor activities.

However, Fili Martinez and his teammates on the Bend Bucks of the Class-A Northwest League apparently are having difficulty seeing the recreational forest for the trees.

“It’s beautiful but there’s nothing to do,” said Martinez, a left-handed pitcher from Cal State Northridge who was selected in the ninth round of the draft. “We have Nintendo, but that’s the only thing we have to keep us busy.

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“We played a little Whiffle ball on our one day off.”

Martinez has made three starts for the Bucks and is 1-1 with a 4.73 ERA. He has pitched 13 1/3 innings, allowing 19 hits and five walks while recording 12 strikeouts.

“Hopefully, it will go just like the season at Northridge,” said Martinez, who was 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA for the Matadors. “I started slow and got better each game.”

He ain’t heavy dept.: After the University of Arkansas was eliminated from the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., last month, Razorback shortstop Rod Stillwell picked up his belongings in Fayetteville and headed for Kansas City to visit his older brother, Kurt--the starting shortstop for the Kansas City Royals.

During a stopover in Tulsa, Okla., Rod was informed by phone that he had been selected by the Royals in the 69th round of the draft and that he was going to be assigned to Eugene, Ore., in the Northwest League.

Upon Rod’s arrival at Royals Stadium, Kurt called Art Stewart, the Royals’ scouting director, and announced his brother’s arrival.

“Kurt came back into the clubhouse and said, ‘Well, there’s been a change of plans,’ ” Rod recalled. “My heart sank. I didn’t know what was happening.

“Then Kurt said, ‘They’re not sending you to rookie ball. They’re sending you to Appleton, Wisconsin. That’s A-ball.”

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Since his arrival in Appleton, Stillwell has carved a niche with his versatility. “We’ve played him at shortstop and second and we’re going to get him to play third,” Appleton Manager Brian Poldberg said. “I think he’ll need to be a utility-type player to play in the major leagues.”

Stillwell is still adjusting to the wood bat. Through Friday, he was two for 30 (.067).

“Right now, he’s going through the aluminum bat syndrome,” said John Boles, the Royals’ director of player development.

Scenic route: Rick Allen and his Billings (Mont.) Mustangs teammates got an unexpected surprise last week when the team traveled through Yellowstone National Park on its way to a Pioneer Rookie League series in Idaho Falls, Ida.

“Our bus driver was giving us a tour and he stopped at Old Faithful,” Allen said. “We stayed there for about an hour and saw the water burst out of there.”

Allen, who was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 10th round of the draft out of Loyola Marymount, has been a reliable third baseman for the Mustangs and is batting .379 as the cleanup hitter.

“I was happy to go with the Reds,” said Allen, who played at Calabasas High. “I always loved the way Pete Rose played. I liked the old Big Red Machine.”

Allen also has taken a liking to Billings, the largest city in Montana, which bills itself as “City Style with a Country Smile.”

“I thought it was going to be a nothing town,” Allen said. “But so far, it’s been great.”


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