Astros-Padres trade sees hometown hurler return to Houston

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San Diego Padres pitcher Nick Hernandez
San Diego Padres pitcher Nick Hernandez / Harry How/GettyImages

Nick Hernandez has to be on cloud nine at the moment. The H-Town native who played college baseball for the Houston Cougars was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Astros for cash considerations last Monday night.

Hernandez had been pitching for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in El Paso after signing a minor league deal with the Friars this offseason. In 17 games for the El Paso Chihuahuas, Hernandez had a 1.90 ERA with 34 punchouts in 23.2 innings pitched.

But Hernandez packed his bags and headed for Space City after being added to the Astros active roster. In a corresponding move, the Astros moved starter Jose Urquidy (who will undergo Tommy John surgery) to the 60-day IL and optioned left-hander Parker Mushinski to Triple-A.

Astros-Padres trade sees Nick Hernandez return to Houston

Not only did Hernandez touch down in his hometown of Houston ahead of Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the right-hander even saw some action in the ninth inning. Hernandez entered for fellow reliever Shawn Dubin in the top of the ninth and proceeded to induce three consecutive ground ball outs off the bats of Nolan Arenado, Ivan Herrera, and Brandon Crawford.

Hernandez is a former Houston Cougar, and was once a member of the Astros farm system as well. Houston originally selected Hernandez in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Hernandez worked his way up through the Astros farm system all the way to Triple-A Sugar Land — which is home to John Foster Dulles High School where Hernandez pitched as a member of the Vikings' baseball team — but didn't make his major league debut until 2023 with the Padres.

But Hernandez brings more than just the hometown connection. The 29-year-old adds a fastball-slider combo to the Astros bullpen. The right-hander typically operates in the low-90s and relies on his breaking ball to get swings and misses. Hernandez was able to strike out over 30% of the batters he faced in the Pacific League this season, and the Astros' brass is hoping that translates to the big leagues.

Hernandez shouldn't be considered a high-leverage reliever, and will most likely see the majority of his opportunities when Astros manager Joe Espada is hoping to keep the game close. He did just that on Wednesday night in front of the hometown fans at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately, the Astros were unable to get the win and fell to the Cardinals by the final of 4-2.

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