Kiké Hernández started anticipating Opening Day at Fenway Park almost as soon as he signed his two-year deal with the Red Sox in January, but he couldn’t wait quite that long to soak in his new home environment.
With the Red Sox back in Boston, Hernández stopped at the park early Wednesday. He made a point of taking in the view from the home dugout and experienced something very different from what he encountered as a visitor with the Dodgers in 2018 and 2019.
“The view from the first-base dugout is a lot more special in this stadium than the view from the third-base dugout, I can tell you that,” said Hernández. “It felt special. The magic of Fenway, you can actually feel it from the first-base dugout.
“Like I’ve said, there’s a lot that I’m looking forward to, a lot that I’m excited about, and nothing that I take for granted.”
The 29-year-old’s eagerness for Opening Day only increased once manager Alex Cora approached him about batting leadoff. For weeks, Hernández has been breaking down video of Baltimore Opening Day starter John Means, looking forward to the challenge of setting the tone for the Red Sox season.
“I’ve thought about it ever since he sent me that text challenging me to be the leadoff hitter,” said Hernández.
Hernández has a recent history of impressive Opening Day performances. He cracked the Opening Day lineup for the first time in 2018, and stayed there the last two seasons. In those three contests, he went 6 for 10 with three homers and three walks, and he’s gone deep in each of the last two season-opening contests.
“The last two years have been pretty special on Opening Day, and this one is special regardless just because it’s a new team, new stadium, new city,” said Hernández. “Also my first official game being a dad. So I’m excited about a lot of things.”
Light mound work
Eduardo Rodriguez, who is working back to full strength after being briefly slowed by a dead arm late in spring training, was one of several Red Sox pitchers who did light mound work at Fenway Park on Wednesday. The Red Sox have yet to make an official decision about whether the lefthander will open the year on the injured list, though Cora hinted strongly at such a possibility before the team left Fort Myers … Catcher Christian Vázquez, who required stitches when a thrown ball hit him in the face during a drill last week, will be on the Opening Day active roster … Xander Bogaerts is slated to make his eighth consecutive Opening Day start at shortstop, tying Everett Scott (1914-21) for the most in franchise history.
With the big league team gone north, Red Sox minor leaguers will convene for two camps. In Worcester, more than two dozen players making up the near-term big league depth (as well as some upper-level prospects) will work out at Polar Park, the new home of the Red Sox’ Triple A affiliate. That group will include three of the team’s most impressive spring performers — Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Michael Chavis — as well as pitchers Connor Seabold, Ryan Weber, Matt Hall, and Daniel Gossett, and catcher Connor Wong. Several of the younger top prospects who were in big league camp, including first baseman Triston Casas, have stayed in Fort Myers, Fla. Other minor leaguers who hadn’t been invited to big league camp started arriving Wednesday in Fort Myers for the start of their spring training. Workouts in minor league camp will begin Friday. Teams are allowed to have 215 players and staff in camp. The Red Sox expect to have approximately 135 following the completion of COVID-19 intake protocols.
Timing it out
Gates at Fenway Park will open at 12:10 p.m. for the 2:10 p.m. game. The Opening Day ceremonies are scheduled to start at 1:40 p.m. The Red Sox are asking fans to be in their seats by 1:30 p.m. NESN will broadcast the ceremony as well as the game, beginning with its pregame show at 12:20 p.m. WEEI-FM’s broadcast starts at 1:10 p.m. and will include the ceremony … More than 100 health-care workers will be in attendance, part of a partnership between the Red Sox and Dell Technologies to give 10,000 tickets to health-care workers this season.