Darwinzon Hernandez was primarily a starter in the minor leagues and made one start as a rookie with the Red Sox in 2019. He will likely pitch out of the bullpen this season for the Red Sox. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Red Sox have flirted with the idea of making Darwinzon Hernandez a starter in the past, but for now, the plan is to keep the young lefty in the bullpen.

Hernandez made only seven appearances in 2020, with the start of his season delayed due to a positive COVID-19 test and a sprained SC joint keeping him out for 2 1/2 weeks in September. Now fully healthy, Hernandez is expected to join Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and newcomers Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura in the back end of Boston’s bullpen.

“We do believe that, stuff-wise, he can give us big outs late in games,” Manager Alex Cora said Saturday. “Those are decisions that might change over the course of the season or the course of spring training. We’ll treat him like a reliever who is going to contribute for us in the last third of the game.”

Hernandez, 24, made one start for the Red Sox as a rookie in 2019 but otherwise has worked out of the bullpen, making 35 relief appearances over the last two seasons. In 35 2/3 innings as a reliever, he has posted a 3.53 ERA and struck out 63 batters; in 2020, he posted a 2.16 ERA and recorded 13 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. Seven of his 35 career relief appearances have been longer than an inning, so Boston might have the ability to once again stretch him out a bit in 2021.

Last year, with the Red Sox struggling to cover innings after Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale were ruled out for the season, the club considered using Hernandez as a starter or multi-inning reliever. In August, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said the Red Sox hoped “to see him have the chance to help us in a bit larger role than just short relief” after coming up through the minor leagues as a starter.

Now, Boston has much more starting depth, with Tanner Houck, Matt Andriese, Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold and others backing up the projected starting five of Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez and Nick Pivetta. Hernandez and Taylor, who Cora relied on throughout the second half of 2019, will play crucial roles in the bullpen.

“It’ll be good to see Darwinzon and (Taylor) throw the ball the way they’re capable of,” Cora said. “I know last year was a tough one, not only on the field but also with the virus. It’ll be good to see them throw the ball well.”

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