Sheldon Ocker

CLEVELAND: The Indians are hoping that Roberto Hernandez’s sprained right ankle feels strong and pain free today when he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session.

If Hernandez makes a quick recovery, he won’t miss a start and his employers can continue to watch him pitch, which is more than a spectator sport for General Manager Chris Antonetti.

It is Antonetti who must decide if it’s worth exercising the $6 million option in Hernandez’s contract for next year. Until Hernandez was flagged by the governments of the Dominican Republic and U.S. for using a false identity (Fausto Carmona), the option had been worth $9 million.

However, by fraudulently using another person’s name, the Tribe had the right to void Hernandez’s contract and negotiate from scratch.

“Roberto has a little inflammation in the ankle,” manager Manny Acta said Tuesday. “He feels good, but the test will be tomorrow, his side day. Lonnie [head trainer Lonnie Soloff] is optimistic.”

Hernandez did not begin his season until Aug. 15, following a protracted delay as he tried to convince the federal government to issue him a work permit. He has made only three starts and posted an 0-3 record and 7.54 ERA.

Nevertheless, Acta feels that in some ways Hernandez is a more polished pitcher than he was last season, when he posted a 7-15 record and 5.25 ERA.

“He’s been in the [strike] zone more than in the past,” Acta said. “It’s only been three games, and I know he hasn’t been lighting it on fire. But he had that bad inning in Anaheim and didn’t self destruct. He kept his composure.”

Hernandez gave up five runs in the second inning against the Angels but continued to pitch through the sixth, allowing three more runs. It wasn’t great, but often in the past, he would have been unable to continue after giving up a big inning.

“His sinker is there at 93-94,” Acta said. “The issue is with his secondary pitches.”

The inference is that with more work, the off-speed and breaking pitches will come.

With the rotation in shambles — Josh Tomlin recovering from elbow surgery, Derek Lowe released, Ubaldo Jimenez leading the league in losses — it is important to make a determination on Hernandez’s option.

“It’s very important for him and for us to evaluate him, so we can make a decision,” Acta said.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.