PITTSBURGH — For the first time in nearly 10 weeks, Kiké Hernández is expected to play for the Red Sox on Tuesday.
Hernández was last in uniform on June 7. He went on the injured list the next day with a hip flexor strain that had been bothering him going back to spring training.
Hernández has been largely a ghost since. A minor league rehab assignment in June lasted one game before he was shut down and given an injection in his hip.
He tried playing again a month later and was 3 for 13 in four games for Double A Portland.
Hernández hit .209 with a .613 OPS in 51 games before going on the injured list. It was a stark difference from 2021 when he had a .786 OPS and 58 extra-base hits as the Sox’ leadoff hitter and primary center fielder.
How Hernández fits on the team was something manager Alex Cora said he was still working through. It’s also uncertain how often he’ll be able to play.
Hernández hit leadoff before the injury. Tommy Pham is 11 of 37 (.297) in eight games in that spot since being acquired from the Reds, but has drawn only one walk and struck out 13 times.
“I do believe Tommy is doing an outstanding job there,” Cora said. “There’s a good chance he’ll stay there.”
Defensively, Hernández has played exclusively center field this season, outside of five innings at shortstop.
If the Sox remain committed to seeing what rookie center fielder Jarren Duran is capable of, Hernández could go back to the utility role he has excelled in.
“The good thing with Kiké [is] we can move him around and get him at-bats and maximize his talent,” Cora said. “He’ll play a lot of center field, we know that. But at the same time we can move him.”
Defensive metrics show Duran has been one of the worst center fielders in the majors. Over the last two seasons he has played 617 2/3 innings in the outfield and has one assist.
Tuesday will be only the 16th time since the start of interleague play in 1997 that the Sox will play the Pirates. The teams last met in 2017.
The Sox are 8-7 in the series and 3-6 at PNC Park. Their last series in Pittsburgh was in 2014. The Sox haven’t won a game at PNC Park since 2011.
Pittsburgh (45-70) has lost four straight and six of its last seven games and sits in last place in the National League Central.
Sunday night’s 3-0 victory against the Yankees took 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was the shortest nine-inning game the Sox have played since Aug. 3, 2018. That was a 4-1 victory against the Yankees at Fenway Park.
Rick Porcello pitched a complete-game one-hitter and struck out nine without a walk. His only blemish was a solo homer by Miguel Andújar in the fourth inning.
The last time the Sox were under 2:15 for a nine-inning game was July 23, 2017, at Anaheim in a 3-2 loss. That game was played in 2:13.
The Sox optioned outfielder Jaylin Davis to Triple A Worcester, likely to make room for Hernández on the roster. Davis is 8 for 24 over 12 games in three stints with the Sox this season . . . Sox relievers have allowed one run on seven hits over the last 12 1/3 innings . . . The Sox are 29-30 at home and 28-29 on the road . . . Eric Hosmer is 5 of 26 (.192) with two RBIs since joining the Sox . . . Nick Pivetta, the scheduled starter on Tuesday, has a 3.27 ERA in three games and 11 innings against the Pirates in his career but has not faced them since 2019. Righthander Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh’s starter, will be facing the Red Sox for the first time. Among current Red Sox, only Hosmer (3 for 7) and Pham (0 for 6) have faced him before.