Kiké Hernández is a proven clubhouse leader. His large personality made him a fixture in the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse despite his talents falling well short of some of his peers. He’s a proven utility guy, offering teams more flexibility.
What Hernández hasn’t proven yet is the ability to be an everyday player.
Heading into spring training, the Sox have a glaring hole at second base — just as they did last season when Jose Peraza sputtered all the way to the team’s alternate training site. It would make sense this season, that Hernández, one of the league’s best defenders at second base, would fill that role. But, according to manager Alex Cora, it’s not a given that Hernández will.
“We’ll see what happens there, lineup-wise,” Cora said. “I’m going to challenge him, and he’s going to let me know with his performance, where we are going to hit him, and where we go lineup-wise.”
Cora, who’s known Hernández since he was a kid in Puerto Rico, lauded Hernández’s knack for playing multiple positions. His plus skills don’t just play up the middle of the diamond but in the outfield, too, where Hernández is also an asset.
Cora added that, even at 29 years old and a .240 career batting average, Hernández has room for growth with the bat. Cora is confident Hernández can get better at hunting fastballs and tap into a bit more power, which, it is hoped, will lead to more extra-base hits.
Hernández’s experience with the Dodgers, an organization that prides itself on the disciplined approach of its hitters,should make for a smooth transition to what the Red Sox and Cora want him to do. Nevertheless, the glove will be more of a boost than his offense, in large part because the Sox’ defense was putrid last year, committing the third-most errors in the league with 45 in a pandemic-shortened 60-game season.
“If everything goes well, on a nightly basis, he’ll play second at one point during the game,” Cora said. “If he starts in the outfield, probably, he’ll end up playing second base, because defensively, and the numbers show it, he’s the best defender at second base. We sucked defensively [in 2020]. So we have to be better defensively as a unit and he’s going to bring that to the equation every single day.”
Rodriguez a full-go
After Eduardo Rodriguez waged an uphill battle with COVID-19, which resulted in his subsequent diagnosis of myocarditis and his absence for the entire 2020 season, Cora said Rodriguez was a full-go.
“He’s in a good spirit,” said Cora about Rodriguez, who threw a bullpen Wednesday. “You know, he looks in great shape. He worked hard during the offseason, you know, to get to this point. And, you know, very excited to have a full season [from] Eddie and and see what he can do. We had a taste in 2019.”
Though he remains sidelined as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery, Chris Sale said Rodriguez, someone he’s helped mentor in the past, was one of the pitchers he was excited to be around.
“He sent me some videos of him working out in the offseason,” Sale said. “He looks good. He looks ready.”
In 2019, Rodriguez registered a 3.81 ERA and struck out 213 batters in 203⅓ innings of work. He was a workhorse for the Red Sox, a team depleted by injuries to two frontline starters — namely Sale and David Price.
But considering the fact Rodriguez is coming off a health scare, Cora noted the team will be cautious with the lefthander.
“We’ll take care of him,” Cora said. “But I know he feels great where he’s at right now.”
Sox claim RHP Schreiber, place Sale on 60-day IL
The Red Sox claimed righthander John Schreiber off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. To make room, Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list. Schreiber, 26, was selected by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2016 draft and made his debut with the club in 2019. In 28⅔ innings career innings (all in relief), Schreiber has a 6.28 ERA . . . Position players aren’t due to report until next week but there were some early arrivals around JetBlue Park, including Alex Verdugo, Hernández, Bobby Dalbec, prospect Jeter Downs, Rafael Devers and Marcus Wilson . . . Meanwhile, reliever Ryan Brasier (personal reasons) did not report. Reliever Hirokazu Sawamura and catcher Jhonny Pereda have yet to report as they sort out visa issues . . . The WooSox will open their season with six games on the road against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) RailRiders April 6-11. The Portland Sea Dogs, the club’s Double A affiliate, will open their season with a six-game homestand May 4 against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine. The Greenville (S.C.) Drive, the club’s High A affiliate, and the Salem (Va.) Red Sox will open their respective seasons May 4. The Drive will host the Bowling Green Hot Rods while Salem will open with a six-game series at the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Michael Silverman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.