05/14/2007 2:11 PM ET
Hernandez: Sixteen years later
Roberto Hernandez made his Major League debut in 1991 with the White Sox. (Brian Kersey/AP)
I've been pitching so long that Carlton Fisk caught my first game in the Majors.
This is my 16th big-league season now. To have lasted in this game as long as I have, I feel blessed first and foremost. I haven't had any major injuries and I'm still able to contribute at a high level for a competitive team and help the younger players.
I was a closer for a long time and I have 326 career saves, but I haven't served in that role now for a number of years. Do I miss it? Well, there's certainly an element I miss. But the way I approach my job is to contribute in any manner that's asked of me. It's about winning and getting into the postseason. I want the chance to play for the grand prize.
I also enjoy getting the chance to pass along my experience and knowledge to some of the younger pitchers. I got to do that last year in Pittsburgh, where I had a great time, and I'm having the same experience this year. We have a good mix of veterans and kids, and it's still fun coming to the ballpark.
Looking back, the memory I cherish the most came in '93 when I saved a playoff game for the White Sox in our AL Championship Series against Toronto. It took us one step closer to the World Series. It was also the first time I was in the playoffs and the Sky Dome was packed. For the first time, I really understood the difference between the playoffs and the regular season.
In 1991, I actually started three games. That seems like a really, really, really long time ago. It seems ancient to me. Back then, I had a blood clot that caused me to miss a few months. It was tough because I was just breaking into the big leagues. I count my blessings for getting though that situation.
Interestingly, I only have two at-bats during the 16 years I've been in the big leagues. But I also have a .500 batting average. I got a hit in my first at-bat when I swung at the first pitch. It was during the short time I spent with San Francisco in '97. I hit it to right field, but I remember having to bust my tail down the line though because Sammy Sosa was charging with the thought of throwing me out at first.
You never know. I could get another at-bat this year. I might need to pitch a couple of innings to preserve our bullpen at some point.
The other great thing about playing 16 years is that I've played with a roster of great players. At the end of my career, maybe I will put on paper how good a team I could field. I mentioned Fisk but there is also Frank Thomas in his prime; Wade Boggs toward the end of his career; Andruw and Chipper Jones in Atlanta; Carlos Beltran; I played with Jack McDowell and Pedro Martinez.
I think the most exciting player I ever played with was Jose Reyes, and right now, I'm playing with Grady Sizemore. It's been an honor to play with these guys.
With that said, I'm not ready to retire yet. I have no problems with my arm, so long as my legs are strong and I remain healthy, I'll keep playing.
Reliever Roberto Hernandez is in the midst of his 16th big-league season and his first with the Indians after signing with Cleveland as a free agent this past winter. The 42-year-old right-hander, a two-time All-Star, made his Major League debut in 1991 with the White Sox, and he has reached the postseason four times with four different teams.