PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Maybe Chris Hernandez isn’t as high in Boston’s pitching pecking order as Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman or, for that matter, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo.

Photo by Kelly O'Connor of

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of

But if the 25-year-old left-hander continues to deliver performances like the one he did Sunday, it may make an impression on the Red Sox – or perhaps some other team that’s looking for a lefty who can start and relieve.

Hernandez was never better than he was Sunday against the defending Governors’ Cup champion Durham Bulls as he cruised through seven innings en route to a 7-4 victory.

Don’t be deceived by that final score.

Hernandez retired the first 14 Bulls he faced until Curt Casali singled with two outs in the fifth.

When the final totals were added up, Hernandez had worked seven innings, allowed two runs on a mere three hits and one walk replete with eight strikeouts. And for good measure he threw 62 of 89 pitches for strikes.

“He’s put together quality outings this year,” said PawSox manager Kevin Boles. “It’s impressive the way his cutter has come along, too. He utilizes a mix. But that cutter mix, it’s starting to get some depth to it and you see right-handed hitters swinging over the top of it.

“He’s done well. He throws the ball down. He’s able to vary his speeds. He’s able to slow the ball down and mix (his pitches). He’s been very impressive.”

Hernandez has been particular impressive as a starter.

Including Sunday’s game, he’s made nine starts and compiled a modest 3-4 record with an impressive 2.91 ERA and allowed only 46 hits in 55 2/3 innings.

Conversely, he’s made 10 relief appearances and is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA.

Those stats beg the question in which role is Hernandez more effective – as a reliever or as a starter?

“He has versatility,” said Boles. “We create versatility with the position players. Chris is fortunate enough to be one of those guys from a pitching standpoint who can give you length out of the bullpen. He can do a short stint – lefty-lefty matchup – and start for you.

“He has a variety of roles. I think that just increases his value.”

Good point.

The only inning during which Hernandez encountered trouble was the seventh when the Bulls parlayed a single, a double, a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice into their two runs off the Pawtucket starter.

Otherwise, Hernandez only faced one batter over the minimum through the first six innings.

EXTRA BASES: The victory extended Pawtucket’s winning streak to a season-high five games … In addition to Hernandez’s impressive pitching, the PawSox bludgeoned Durham starter Enny Romero … Catcher Dan Butler (who was 3-for-4) slugged a two-run homer in the second and beat out a run-scoring infield hit in the fifth … Corey Brown belted a solo homer in the fourth and Travis Shaw also hit a solo homer, in the fifth … During the current home stand, outfielder Alex Hassan is hitting an even .500 (10-for-20).