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Yanks’ Hernandez in Simulated Game

April 3, 1998

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ It only took three pitches Friday before Orlando Hernandez demonstrated why the New York Yankees invested $6.6 million over four years in the Cuban defector.

Pitching in a minor league simulated game, Hernandez threw a 90-mph fastball that broke leadoff hitter John Darjean’s bat in two. The bat barrel, which nearly reached third base, traveled almost as far as the ground ball to first.

``His fastball is sneaky and he has good command of his pitches,″ said Mark Newman, the Yankees vice president for player development. ``He was throwing free and easy.″

In his first game-like outing in over a year, Hernandez threw 19 of 33 pitches for strikes during a two-inning stint against a line-up of predominantly Class-A players.

The right-hander faced eight hitters, striking out two, walking one and allowing two scratch hits. Hernandez recorded three putouts covering first base on infield grounders.

``I felt comfortable,″ Hernandez said through an interpreter. ``I didn’t feel like my control was sharp. This is the closest I’ve been to competing in a long time.″

One of the two hits off Hernandez was an opposite field double just inside the foul line by Russell Chambliss, the son of Yankees batting coach Chris Chambliss.

Hernandez, whose fastball was consistently hitting 90-mph, is scheduled to work three innings in an extended spring training contest next Wednesday.

The former Cuban national team standout was among a group that defected the Communist island Dec. 26. He was banned from baseball in homeland in October, 1996, one year after his 23-year old half-brother, Livan Hernandez, defected and signed with the Florida Marlins.

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