It seems to be a surprising statement as the right-hander has yet to pitch a regular-season game with Minnesota. But the team has already shown its confidence in Hernandez. He is set to make his eighth Opening Day start when the Twins face the Angels at the Metrodome on March 31 at 6:05 p.m. CT.
Despite Hernandez's vast experience of taking the ball in the first game of the season, he said that this Opening Day will be extra special.
"It's going to be my first in the American League," Hernandez said. "So after I throw the first pitch, I'm going to hold the ball and put it in my collection."
Pitching coach Rick Anderson said that the Twins decided to go with Hernandez as their Opening Day starter due to his vast experience. With a young rotation, where no pitcher other than Hernandez has more than 48 career starts, the coaching staff felt it was best to go with an arm who wouldn't get sidetracked by the "hoopla" of Opening Day.
"You just don't know if these kids are going to get overly excited and try to do too much," Anderson said. "Having a veteran to start it, it takes away that concern. And once the opener is out of the way, then it's just about playing ball."
Having joined the Twins' organization just days before the start of Spring Training, Hernandez has already had to make some adjustments. From the way he conducted himself in drills to some of his tendencies on the mound, Hernandez has tried to mold himself into what has been called the "Twins way."
Hernandez has tried to do his best to fit that prototype -- although, at times, he admits it's been a tad difficult.
"It's not easy to change something I've done my whole career, and I think people have to understand that," Hernandez said. "I've not got two, three years in the league, I've got way more than that. But at the same time, I'm going to follow the rules and do what they want me to do."
Sure, the transition hasn't been perfectly smooth for Hernandez, but it's how things are run by the Twins that has made the pitcher eager to stay. And his hope is that this Opening Day start won't be his only one with the team.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm a very straight guy so if I say something -- it's the way I feel," said Hernandez, who hopes to pitch eight more years. "I'm not going to say something that's not true. And what I say is I'd like to play many more years here. So I guess we'll see what happens this year."