Veteran backstop Hernandez isn't slowing down

Veteran backstop Hernandez isn't slowing down

PITTSBURGH -- After most games, Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez's left arm is so heavily wrapped that it looks as if he's going to a costume contest as either a mummy or a hockey goalie.

So naturally, when he was smoked with a pitch by the Pirates' Juan Cruz in the seventh inning on Tuesday, the ball hit him smack in the upper left arm. That's just the way it is for a catcher. The bumps and bruises cover much of his body, but it seems each year, one spot has a target.

"It's been hit a few times," Hernandez said with a wink and a smile Wednesday morning, before sitting out the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates. "When it gets hit, it's already hit, so it doesn't hurt as much.

"I get hit there with a bat once -- I was trying to set up inside. When that happens, you try to act like there's no pain. It's too hard to say how many balls have hit me there. Too many."

The bruises, along with the mental grind of catching, usually reduce a catcher to a pedestrian offensive player. That's not the case with Hernandez, 35, who entered Wednesday hitting .268 with two home runs and six RBIs. It's enough offensive production for the bottom part of the Rockies' order.

In his last two seasons, with the Reds, Hernandez has finished at .282 and .297. Granted, he dropped below 100 games played each year, but it's not always normal for a catcher to improve offensively late in his career.

"He's very calm -- he's got low highs, he's got high lows, so he's right in the middle," Rockies catching coach Jerry Weinstein said. "He does not panic, has a real even demeanor. It helps our pitchers, and it helps him."

Cognizant of the mileage on Hernandez's body and realizing playing in and out of Colorado's atmospheric conditions can take a toll on players, the Rockies are using rookie Wilin Rosario more than teams usually use backup catchers. Hernandez said playing in Colorado has not created special wear and tear at this point.

"I'm a catcher, so I'm not really running around as much," Hernandez said. "I'm squatting, but not moving as much as other players, so it's not as bad."