October 11 – Happy Birthday Orlando Hernandez
I loved watching El Duque on the mound. His ability to throw so many different pitches from that winding and unwinding motion always left me with the impression that he was conducting an orchestra instead of just pitching a baseball game. At least 33 years old when he escaped from Cuba and signed with the Yankees in 1998, his first two seasons in pinstripes were his best, winning 29 games during that span and compiling the first four of what would become eight consecutive postseason wins for New York. I clearly remember always feeling confident the Yankees would do well in any big game with Hernandez as their starting pitcher. Even after his mediocre 2000 regular season, when he finished 12-13, El Duque managed to win three straight starts that postseason.
And after New York traded him in January of 2003, Yankee fans will never forget how Hernandez rejoined the team during the 2004 season and led New York back to the playoffs by winning eight of ten decisions. Then, after spending time with both the White Sox and the Diamondbacks, El Duque joined the Mets during the 2006 season and went 18-12 during his two seasons at Shea. Perhaps if he had escaped from Castro’s Cuba a decade earlier, he would be headed for Cooperstown.
El Duque shares his October 11th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.