View Count: 117 |  Publish Date: September 03, 2013
Phillies Notebook: Phillies' Hernandez center of attention
DAVID MURPHY, Daily News Staff Writer dmurphy@phillynews.comPosted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 12:16 AM
JAYSON WERTHS bat flashed through the zone, sending a Cole Hamels fastball sailing at a 45-degree angle toward centerfield. It was an early test, and Cesar Hernandez passed, gloving the line drive in stride for the final out of the first inning.
The Phillies newest centerfielder is a 23-year-old switch-hitter who has played exactly 23 games at the position since joining the organization in 2007. Last night, he made his first major league start there, leading off against Nationals righthander Stephen Strasburg to begin one of the more intriguing tryouts on a team that has turned its focus toward 2014.
Hernandez, who has spent the past couple of months learning the position at Triple A Lehigh Valley, might have more to gain from this last month of the season than any other player on the roster. The Phillies are hoping he can fill a bench role on next years team similar to the one that Kevin Frandsen has occupied this season, except with more defensive versatility and greater promise at the plate.
Because Hernandez is out of options, he must be exposed to waivers next year before he is sent down to the minors. With a .309/.375/.402 batting line at Lehigh Valley this season and a .304/.345/.436 line at Double A in 2012, the native of Venezuela has a much better track record as a hitter than utility man Freddy Galvis, who hit just .245/.274/.357 in 262 plate appearances after the Phillies sent him to Triple A in June. More coveragePoll: Should the Phillies re-sign Roy Halladay?Follow the Phillies: Download our FREE Pro Baseball app!Forum: What record will the Phillies finish with?Latest Phillies videos Special section: Top 25 Phillies prospects
Hernandez spent 2 weeks with the major league club in May and June, going 7-for-28 with one double, four strikeouts and no walks as a second baseman and pinch-hitter. But with Chase Utley signed to a 2-year contract extension, there is no obvious opening for Hernandez in the infield. He played some shortstop early in his minor league career and manager Ryne Sandberg raised the possibility of eventually trying him at third base, but centerfield and second base are his two most obvious paths to playing time.
While the Phillies have given no indication that they are dissatisfied with the production they got from Ben Revere before he broke a foot in July, he certainly could be pushed with a strong performance by Hernandez, who has more power and the ability to hit from the right side. Revere hit .305/.338/.352 with 22 steals in 30 attempts this season but has not hit a home run in 1,304 major league at-bats and owns a career .330 slugging percentage.
The sense is that the Phillies are hoping Hernandez can back up Revere in center and Utley at second, getting a start or two per week while staying sharp for pinch-hitting duty.
When he left here 2 months ago, the idea was to just give him another position to play to give him some versatility to his resume, Sandberg said. Centerfield was looked at because of his speed and range. He has a real nice stride thats noticeable. He seems to have adapted very well. This here is another challenge for him, but its a good chance to see where hes at.
He has a plus bat for his age. He uses the gaps well, and has power in a smaller-looking body. He can swing the bat a little bit. I see him being initially a bench player and get some odd starts, but to do that, you need to be versatile and thats what the centerfield move is about.
On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy
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