Mets Add Hernandez To Rotation

Though the Mets are leading the National League East, the back end of their rotation is cause for concern. They added another alternative on Wednesday, acquiring Orlando Hernandez from the Diamondbacks for Jorge Julio.

Both righthanders were part of offseason trades. Hernandez went to Arizona in the Javier Vazquez deal with the White Sox in December. Julio arrived in New York as part of the Kris Benson swap with the Orioles in January.

Hernandez, listed by Major League Baseball as 36 but actually 40 according to legal documents, is a crafty righthander who has won four World Series rings, three with the Yankees from 1998-2000 and another with the White Sox last year. His stuff has taken a downturn as he has gotten further past his prime, and he now relies mainly on guile. His repertoire consists of two- and four-seam fastballs, curveballs, sliders and changeups. He’ll vary the speeds and breaks on his pitches to further keep hitters off balance. They haven’t been fooled too often in 2006, as Hernandez went 2-4, 6.11 in nine starts for the Diamondbacks. He has a sharp 52-20 K-BB ratio in 46 innings, but opponents have hit .292 with eight homers against him. Lefties have drilled him for a .376 average and six homers in 93 at-bats. Hernandez makes $4.5 million this year, the final season in a two-year, $8 million contract. His career record is 72-53, 4.20 in 172 games.

Julio, 27, had barely been used in the last three weeks by the Mets. He has legitimate power stuff, with a mid- to high-90s fastball and a high-80s slider, but he gets into trouble and is more hittable than he should be because he doesn’t locate his pitches well. He went 1-2, 5.06 with one save in 18 games for New York. In 21 innings, he had a 33-10 K-BB ratio, .247 opponent average and four homers allowed. Julio avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.525 million contract, and he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2007 season. He has gone 12-26, 4.26 with 84 saves in 299 career appearances.

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