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Hernández with the White Sox in 2005

Orlando Hernández Pedroso (born October 11, 1969 in Villa Clara, Cubamarker), nicknamed El Duque, is a Major League Baseball right-handed starting pitcher who is currently a free agent. His last appearance in a Major League game was in 2007 with the New York Mets.

His greatest success came as a New York Yankees starter during that team's run of World Series championships in 1998, 1999, and 2000. He also won a championship in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. He is the half-brother of pitcher Liván Hernández.

Orlando Hernandez is well known for his extremely high leg kick.

Cuban years

Hernández played for Industriales of Havanamarker in the Cuban National Series, helping the team win that title in 1992 and 1996. He also represented Havana in Selective Series, on teams including Ciudad Habana and Habaneros. He was 126-47 with 3.05 ERA over his ten-year career in the National Series. His career winning percentage in National and Selective Series, .728, is the league record.

Hernández was also a fixture on the Cuba national baseball team, and was part of the gold-winning Olympic team at Barcelona in 1992.

In September , Hernández's half-brother Liván Hernández defected from Cuba. Then in July , Orlando Hernández was detained by Cuban state security and interrogated about his relationship to an American sports agent. Three months later, he was banned from Cuban baseball. On Christmas day 1997, Hernández defected from Cuba, departing on a boat from the small city of Caibariénmarker. The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted Hernandez, his companion Noris Bosch, another baseball player named Alberto Hernandez (no relation) and five others in Bahamian waters, delivering the entire party to Bahamian authorities in Freeport, who confined them in a detention center for illegal immigrants pending eventual repatriation to Cuba, the usual outcome of such cases. However, after lobbying by sports agent Mark Cubas and representatives of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), then-Attorney General Janet Reno eventually offered both Hernandezes and Bosch a special status known as "humanitarian parole" that would allow them to enter the U.S., based on (1) what were judged to be realistic fears of persecution should they be returned to Cuba and (2) their status as exceptionally talented athletes, a class of person that — like exceptionally talented people in other professions — can qualify for special admission to the U.S. under State Department rules. However, Hernandez declined this offer, eventually accepting an offer of asylum in Costa Rica. If he had immediately become a U.S. resident, he would have been subject to baseball's regular draft and could only have negotiated terms with the team that picked him. As a non-U.S. resident, however, he was able to negotiate as a free agent. After two months in Costa Rica, Hernandez entered the U.S. on a visa arranged by the New York Yankees, with whom he had negotiated a four-year, $6.6 million contract.

Major league career

Hernández enjoyed his best year in , with a 17-9 record and setting career-highs in strikeouts (157) and innings pitched (214.1) as a Yankee. After the regular season, he was selected the Most Valuable Player in the American League Championship Series. He would spend 6 of his first 7 MLB seasons with the Yankees (Hernandez was traded to the Montreal Expos prior to the 2003 season but rotator cuff surgery sidelined him all year; the Yankees reacquired him for 2004).

In 2005, while pitching for the Chicago White Sox, Hernández delivered a memorable performance in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. Brought on in relief with the bases loaded and no outs, Hernández induced two fly ball outs before striking out Johnny Damon without surrendering a run. The White Sox would go on to win the game, sweeping the Red Sox out of the playoffs. After the 2005 season, he was traded along with relief pitcher Luis Vizcaíno and the highly touted prospect outfielder Chris Young to the Arizona Diamondbacks for former teammate Javier Vázquez. On May 24, 2006, he was dealt to the New York Mets in exchange for relief pitcher Jorge Julio.

Hernández's debut season in the National League allowed him to attain some offensive feats for the first time in his career. On July 29, 2006, Hernandez drove in the first two RBIs of his career. When asked when was the last time he remembered he drove in a run, Orlando said, "In Cubamarker". Then, on August 20, 2006, at Shea Stadium, Hernández had the first stolen base of his career (3rd).

Hernández pitched well after his trade to the Mets, going 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts as the Mets won the National League East. His stellar pitching in September, going 2-2 with a 2.01 ERA, earned him the privilege of being named the Mets Game 1 Starter in the 2006 National League Division Series. However, while running sprints in the outfield the day before the playoffs started, Hernández tore a muscle in his calf and had to be scratched from the postseason roster. He was re-signed by the Mets on November 14, 2006. Injuries limited Hernandez to just 24 starts during the 2007 season, but he pitched successfully when healthy, posting a 9-5 record, a 3.72 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 147 innings. Hernandez underwent foot surgery following the 2007 season and was not ready to begin the 2008 season with the Mets. He underwent a lengthy post-surgery rehabilitation program in Florida with the intent of joining the Mets in August 2008. A toe injury that required season-ending surgery in late August 2008 ended Hernandez' season without having thrown a pitch for the Mets. A free agent following the 2008 season, Hernandez' future as an active player is in doubt, especially considering his history of mounting injuries and his age.

On June 11, 2009, Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma. The Rangers informed him that they would not call him up, because they do not believe he has the velocity or command to pitch in the majors, setting up his release on July 17, 2009. At the time of his release, his record with the Triple-A RedHawks was 2-0 in eight relief appearances.

Disputed birth year

When Hernández signed with the Yankees in 1998, he claimed to have been born in 1969. In 1999, The Smoking Gun published his divorce decree from Cuba, which had surfaced in connection with a child support case brought by his ex-wife; the decree revealed him to have been born in 1965. There have even been reports of Hernandez being born sometime between 1957 and 1961. The official site of Major League Baseball still gives his year of birth as 1969, while his pages on ESPN and list it as 1965.

Other career highlights

  • 2-time Cuban National Series Champion (1992 - Industriales, Havana & 1996 -Industriales, Havana.)
  • Most Valuable Player of the Cuban National Series (1996 -Industriales, Havana.)


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