Under normal circumstances, the man doing all the signal-calling and traffic-directing in the Red Sox infield is Dustin Pedroia, but he was given the day off Sunday, and 23-year-old prospect Marco Hernandez got to make his major league debut in Pedroia’s absence.
That left Xander Bogaerts in charge.
Bogaerts’s four years of big league experience made him the go-to guy in the infield if Hernandez had any questions, even though Bogaerts was actually a month younger than Hernandez.
“That was crazy,” Bogaerts said. “I mean, it felt weird in the beginning a little on the adjustments. Just made me have to be more in the game and more alert to help him out.”
Hernandez, who was still getting used to second base after coming through the Sox farm system as a shortstop, was all ears, whether Bogaerts was communicating about pickoff attempts at second or turning double plays.
“It was pretty good,” Hernandez said. “He tried to help me a lot because I don’t play at second base much and it’s different from second, of course, different position. I don’t know the angles yet, because I’ve been playing short. But at the same time, I’ve been playing second a couple games back in Pawtucket. I just keep working there, and you never know what happens.”
Hernandez was a solid stand-in for Pedroia in the Red Sox’s 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. He went 1 for 2 with a walk and a steal and turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the eighth inning.
With Jays starter Aaron Sanchez handcuffing the Sox lineup most of the day, Hernandez brought a spark.
Sanchez hadn’t allowed a hit when Hernandez stepped to the plate with two outs in the fifth inning and sent a soft liner out to left field for a single.
“I was just looking for a pitch that I can drive and tried to put the ball in play,” Hernandez said. “He’s tough to hit.”
With Mookie Betts at the plate, Hernandez took off on a 2-and-2 pitch to steal second, then took third after Russell Martin’s throw bounced into the outfield.
He scored the Sox’ first run of the day on Betts’s single up the middle.
“He did a pretty good job,” Bogaerts said. “He looked solid offensively, defensively. He runs the bases well. He created a run for us today. He did an excellent job today.”
Hernandez made a strong impression in his first big league camp this spring and set himself up to land a spot on the major league roster at some point in the season, but he didn’t expect it to come this early. When the Sox sent down Blake Swihart and Rusney Castillo last Wednesday, they brought up Hernandez for his value as a utility infielder.
“I didn’t expect that they’d call me up so quick,” he said. “I expected middle of July when they play against the National League to pinch hit for the pitcher. I never expected they’d call me right now.”
Hernandez was hitting .286 in Pawtucket. His focus in the offseason, he said, was on being more patient at the plate. He worked a six-pitch walk in his first-at bat, but neither of his other two at-bats lasted more than three pitches.
“I was working during the offseason trying to see as much pitches as I can, trying to work my count, not go up there and swing at the first pitch every time,” he said. “Try to control the game and be under control.”
Hernandez has played just 45 minor league games at second base, but he said he’s adjusting to the right side of the infield after spending more time there during winter ball.
“I’ve been feeling comfortable,” he said.