CHICAGO — Despite widespread acclaim as an excellent defensive player, Kiké Hernández has never been a Gold Glove finalist. His ability to move all over the field — at the expense of a single positional home — has made it difficult for him to gain recognition at any single position.
As a second baseman in 2020 and a centerfielder in 2021, Hernández ranked among MLB leaders in advanced defensive metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved (Fielding Bible) as well as Outs Above Average (Statcast). The Fielding Bible, in fact, recognized him as the top Multi-Position defender in 2020. But Rawlings, which organizes Gold Glove voting, doesn’t have a comparable prize.
How often does he think about what it would take to get a Gold Glove?
“Every day,” Hernández said before the finale of a three-game set vs. the White Sox Thursday night. “I’ve thought about that my whole career even before I had one spot. It’s just unfortunate that league hasn’t adjusted. Every team has a couple of guys that play multiple positions. Teams are valuing versatility, but the league doesn’t reward those guys when it comes to awards. I talked to Rawlings about it. They said they’d see what they could do with MLB about a multi-position Gold Glove. So we’ll see what happens.
“But,” he added, “this year, I don’t think I have a chance at the multi-position one.”
Indeed. For the first time in his career, all of Hernández’s starts this year have come at one position — center field.
As he did in 2021, Hernández is playing the position with aplomb, more than making up for a lack of elite speed with incredible anticipation that result in arguably the best outfield jumps in the game. He grades among the league leaders in DRS, OAA, and many other acronyms meant to connote defensive excellence.
For Hernández, there is satisfaction both in his own performance and the chance to partner with Jackie Bradley Jr., previously a Gold Glove-winning center fielder. Hernández marvels at Bradley’s reads and routes.
“He’s the cream of the crop. He’s got gold in his past for a reason,” said Hernández. “It’s a treat. It’s a pleasure to watch. I just admire the ease he has when he can get to every ball.”
Hernández isn’t the only one who is thrilled by his partnership with Bradley, who ranks second among right fielders with six defensive runs saved. . Sox pitchers likewise see the duo as one to celebrate.
“It’s awesome,” said reliever Matt Barnes. “They catch everything. I’ve been fortunate here for a lot of years to have an incredible outfield group that go and get everything. It makes our life a lot easier.”
Life has also become easier for Hernández. Despite a couple of late-game cameos at short — his favorite position — he relishes the arrival of an on-field home.
“I never thought I was going to be an everyday center fielder in the big leagues until I was,” he said. “It’s been fun.”
The Red Sox will play a five-game, four-day series against the Orioles over Memorial Day weekend that includes a doubleheader on Saturday. The five-game series is the third for the Red Sox in the last 20 years, with the previous ones coming in 2020 (Blue Jays) and 2006 (Yankees).
While beating up the Orioles has been a popular undertaking in the A.L. East since 2018, Cora suggested the days the division being defined by how thoroughly each contender steamrolled the overmatched Orioles may be a thing of the past.
“They’re playing good baseball,” said manager Alex Cora, noting that the O’s nearly upended the Sox’ playoff hopes late last September by winning a series in Baltimore. “It’s different now with the pitching they have.”
Cora is intrigued to get a first-hand look at recent callup Adley Rutschman, the top-ranked prospect in the game.
“There’s a presence behind the plate,” said Cora
Plenty of pitching
While MLB had been planning on capping pitching staff sizes at 13 on May 30, the league has delayed that reduction from its current limit of 14 pitchers until at least June 20. With teams concerned about pitcher workload after the rushed entry into the season following the lockout that lasted until mid-March, clubs are nearly certain to continue to carry the extra pitcher.
Such a decision can have career-altering ripple effects. In the case of the Sox, versatile utilityman Ryan Fitzgerald seemed like a prime candidate for a callup from Triple-A Worcester once teams were required to carry 13 position players. Now, however, the prospect of a big league debut and a spot on the 40-man roster — which comes with a considerable raise — may have been kicked down the road
Build up begins
Chris Sale was slated to throw a 25-pitch bullpen on Thursday, with another scheduled for next week and the possibility of a live batting practice session to follow it. The Sox believe Sale can build up towards competitive situations relatively quickly because none of his injuries have been arm-related. As of now, according to a team source, the expectation remains that Sale will return as a starter . . . Prior to Thursday’s game against the Red Sox, the White Sox placed righthander Joe Kelly on the 15-day injured list with a hamstring injury . . . The Red Sox were expecting to return to Boston from Chicago at approximately 4 a.m. on Friday morning.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.