Hernandez finally makes first big league start

Hernandez finally makes first big league start

PITTSBURGH -- Gorkys Hernandez was in his first Major League starting lineup on Wednesday, getting the nod in left field against Mets lefty Jon Niese at PNC Park.

At 10 a.m. ET, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle wasn't about to impart any advice to the 24-year-old Venezuelan on how to approach an occasion he had been anticipating through 7 1/4 Minor League seasons.

"Anything I'd tell him would be forgotten by 12:35 when he steps into the box," Hurdle said. "It's always the same: Fear nothing, respect everything. Embrace the game. Play. Don't work at it; play."

Hernandez -- who went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout Wednesday -- made his big league debut in Monday night's series opener, when he pinch-hit and was struck out by Mets ace Johan Santana. Hurdle thought Niese's splits (right-handed hitters with a .266 average, compared to lefties' .160) were significant enough to make it a good spot for Hernandez's unveiling.

"So we'll take a shot at it," Hurdle said.

Pedro Alvarez (Yamaico Navarro started at third) joined Jose Tabata on the bench. Both are slumping. Tabata's average is down to .223 after going 5-for-36 in his last nine games; Alvarez got his first day off since April 25, when he moved into the cleanup spot, where since he has hit .130 (7-for-54).

Hurdle counts on two straight days off, with no game Thursday, will get them back on track.

"Maybe that combination will help them get their legs back under them," he said.