On Monday, they’ll get a chance to see what those opponents went through when El Duque makes his first career appearance against his former club as the Chicago White Sox visit the Yankees.
The White Sox signed Hernandez to an $8 million, two-year contract in December after he went 61-40 with a 3.96 ERA, 704 strikeouts and one save in six seasons with the Yankees. His postseason record is even more impressive: 9-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 17 games.
“I know he’s pitched for other clubs, but the only way I know him is wearing our uniform,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He’s a competitor. He’s Duque. He rises to the occasion.”
New York didn’t offer Hernandez a deal to come back because he had been slowed by a shoulder injury the last two years. He missed the 2003 season after having surgery that May to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.
He did, however, win his first eight decisions after rejoining the Yankees at midseason last year, but lost his final two and then missed the AL division series due to a tired shoulder.
Still, Torre gave Hernandez the start in Game 4 of the ALCS. He was in line to clinch the pennant for the Yankees after giving up three runs and three walks in five innings, but Boston rallied and went on to win the World Series.
Hernandez is 8-4 with a 4.69 ERA this season for the team with the best record in baseball, but he’s been on the disabled list twice because of problems with the shoulder.
Contreras went 15-7 in two seasons with the Yankees before being traded to the White Sox for Esteban Loaiza at the non-waiver deadline last July.
“It’s certainly gotta be big for Duque and Contreras,” Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper said. “They are going to be emotional. They need to bring that energy to the glove and attack. I’m looking forward to those games. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. We all are, but those two guys especially.”
Leiter won for the second time since returning to New York, and Rodriguez homered and had three hits as the Yankees remained 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and four games out in the wild card race.