Orlando Hernandez, far better known to anyone who's ever watched him play as "El Duque," turned 52 today. After defecting from Cuba in 1997, the right-hander pitched for nine big league seasons from 1998-2007. His performance on the mound was at times masterful, and routinely magical. He came at hitters with anything and everything he had -- varying arm slots, what seemed like hundreds of different pitch types or speeds and a windup that stretched the boundaries of human imagination:
Many hitters were left walking back to the dugout, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Although he had some stellar years during the regular season, El Duque was a legend during the postseason -- mostly for the Yankees (who will play a decisive ALDS Game 5 against the Indians tonight). He went 9-3 with a 2.67 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 17 games.
Here he is striking out 10 Braves, while giiving up just one hit, in Game 1 of the 1999 World Series:
And fanning five D-backs over 6 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the 2001 Fall Classic.
He won three rings with New York and was 2-1 all-time in the World Series with a 2.21 ERA. Even as a 39-year-old reliever for the White Sox championship run in 2005, Hernandez's pitches were moving faster than even his catcher could comprehend.
So, can the current Yankees channel some of El Duque's magic on the day of his birth? Find out tonight in ALDS Game 5 presented by Doosan at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.