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LMB: Cuban P Pavel Hernandez Earns Spring Training Invite From Rieleros de Aguascalientes

 Leif Skodnick  |    Feb 29th, 2024 11:24am EST

By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network

Cuban right-handed pitcher Pavel Hernandez received a spring training invite from the Rieleros de Aguascalientes in the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol on February 20.

The Rieleros de Aguascalientes announced their spring training roster on their X account. 

Hernandez, 27, was born in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, and pitched for Aguascalientes last season. Hernandez appeared in 14 games and made 12 starts, throwing 62.2 innings, and notching 29 strikeouts with an ERA of 5.30. Hernandez throws a fastball that tops out at 94 mph and mixes in a changeup and a slider. 

“Last season, I was able to learn a lot. It was my first step in Liga Mexicana de Beisbol,” Hernandez told World Baseball Network. “I was lucky to have some incredible teammates and coaches who helped me a lot to better understand how the league worked. They told me how I could be more effective.”

“I think the highlight of my season was the consistency and stability, staying in the rotation and having my team have a chance to win the majority of the games that I pitched,” Hernandez said. 

Enrique Reyes, 63, will enter his third stint as the manager this season. He previously managed Rieleros de Aguascalientes from 1998-99 and from 2012-2013 and was the LMB’s Manager of the Year in 2012. Rieleros de Aguascalientes will look to rebound this season after going 33-58 last season and finishing at the bottom of the standings. Hernandez is part of a large group of pitchers that were invited to Spring Training. 

Reyes talked about Hernandez’s potential and outlook for this season with World Baseball Network via WhatsApp. 

“His spot isn’t guaranteed. We invited 25 pitchers to camp including 20 foreign pitchers”, Reyes said. “I look forward to seeing how the competition will play out and will bring the best pitchers into the season.”

Reyes also discussed what stood out about Hernandez’s work ethic and character. 

He has a “desire to work hard and to get ahead. He’s very polite to everyone and fits well into our clubhouse,” Reyes said. “I am confident that he has a strong arm and can pitch in Mexico.”

It was a long journey for Hernandez to reach the LMB from Cuba, where he was inspired to play baseball at a young age.

“I think I was around eight or nine years old, all my classmates were in some baseball academy, and I wanted to play also,” Hernandez said, noting the influence of the 2006 World Baseball Classic team Cuba put on the field. That squad reached the finals and lost 10-6 to Japan in San Diego, but the quality of the players stood out to Hernandez. 

“We all wanted to be like them, so in the morning you went to classes in the classroom and then in the afternoons we went to the stadium for training,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez had a lot of people who helped him develop as a pitcher in Cuba and he made his debut in the Serie Nacional for Industriales de la Habana in the 2016-17 season when he was 19. His best season for Industriales de Habana was in 2022-23, when he threw 93.1 innings, notched 57 strikeouts, and had a 3.58 ERA.

“I think there have been many who have helped me throughout my career, in Cuba I have been lucky enough to be close to the best at various times, including the Mexican League Hall of Famer Andrés Ayon,” Hernandez said. Ayon pitched at every level of the Cincinnati Reds minor league affiliates from 1957-63 and finished his career in LMB from 1964-77, where he posted a 129-80 record and threw 1586 innings, and rung up 697 strikeouts with an ERA of 3.35.

In the 2022-23 winter league season, Hernandez made his Cuban Elite League debut with Portuarios. His numbers were 52.2 innings, 24 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.76. In the 2023-2024 winter league season, Hernandez pitched for Industriales de la Habana in the Cuban Elite League, throwing 20 innings with 13 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.70. Industriales de la Habana lost to the Cazadores de Artemisa in five games in the 2023-24 Elite League semifinals. 

The Rieleros de Aguascalientes will open their season with a three-game home series against the Charros de Jalisco on April 12 at Parque Alberto Romo Chávez in Aguascalientes, Mexico, to start the 2024 LMB regular season.