Mount Rushmore of White Sox closers: Roberto Hernandez
The California Angels used the 16th overall pick to select right-hander Roberto Hernandez out of the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 1986 and it would take awhile for the big guy to figure things out. Born in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez moved to New York when he was 2 and graduated from high school in New Hampshire.
He then attended both the University of Connecticut and USC-Aiken.
Like just about every pitcher drafted in that era, Hernandez was made a starter. In August 1989, the Angels traded Hernandez and a minor-league outfielder Mark Doran to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Mark Davis, who would eventually get two at-bats for California in 1991. So, spoiler alert, the Sox won the trade.
Hernandez was called up when the rosters expanded in September 1991 and made three starts. He was dazzling in his debut, allowing one hit over seven innings in a 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. But after he was lit up for nine runs, seven earned, in just 4.1 innings in his next two appearances, Hernandez was sent to the bullpen.
He never went back to the rotation and by 1992, he was getting save opportunities as Bobby Thigpen became less effective less than two years removed from setting a single-season record for saves with 57.
The roles reversed in 1993, with Hernandez saving 38 games for the AL West Division champions. He saved 38 games again in 1996, earning his first All-Star nod. As part of the cycle of closer life, Hernandez was traded in July 1997 to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought future closer Keith Foulke to Chicago.
Hernandez had staying power, closing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals through the 2002 season and working five more years for the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers in a setup role until he was 42, retiring after the 2007 season.
In parts of seven seasons with the White Sox, Hernandez saved 161 games in 197 opportunities, with a 2.87 ERA and 1.223 WHIP in 404.2 innings over 345 appearances. He struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings, while walking 3.5 per nine.