FORT MYERS, Fla. — As he watched the World Series last fall, Red Sox infielder Marco Hernandez couldn’t help but notice how many of his former minor league teammates were playing for the Chicago Cubs.
He had shared a clubhouse at different levels with Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber. Their accomplishment wasn’t his, but Hernandez certainly had shared some of the steps along the way before the Cubs traded him.
“You never know what could have happened, maybe I could have been there,” Hernandez said Tuesday. “But I didn’t have any regrets. I’m with the best organization in the game now.”
The Red Sox acquired Hernandez, 24, as part of the Great Purge of 2014. After pitcher Felix Doubront was traded to the Cubs in July, Hernandez was sent to the Sox in December as the player to be named later.
Ben Cherington won that deal with Theo Epstein. Doubront appeared in only four games for the Cubs and was released the following spring. Hernandez played in 40 games for the Sox last season, starting at second base, third base, and shortstop. He also made the postseason roster.
This spring, Hernandez is competing for a spot on the bench with Rule 5 pick Josh Rutledge, who has yet to play as he recovers from surgery to his left knee.
In Brock Holt, the Red Sox have a prototype utility player who can play every position outside of pitcher and catcher. Hernandez is limited to the infield but offers offensive potential.
“There’s a lot of skills that jump out at you,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “The bat speed, he’s got line-drive ability, gap power, well above-average running speed.”
Counting the postseason and his time with Triple A Pawtucket, Hernandez played in 99 games last season. He then picked up an additional 41 games playing for Licey in the Dominican Winter League and hit four home runs there.
“I wanted to come here ready to play,” he said. “That was important to me. The day I came to spring training, I could have played in a game.”
Hernandez played most of his winter ball games at third base, the Sox wanting ample depth at the position in the event Pablo Sandoval falters again. Although he came up a shortstop, Hernandez says he feels comfortable at third.
“He’s grown so much from the time we traded for him,” Farrell said. “There was a tendency to rush things defensively. The more he’s calmed down and played at a more even pace defensively, you see him become more of a proficient defender. He has the physical skills to be an everyday player.
“I would be comfortable with him at third base; he’s become a much more trusted defender.
The Sox have considered using Hernandez in the outfield, but that experiment didn’t take when they tried it in the minors last season.
“That seems still quite a ways off,” said Farrell, ever diplomatic.
As a young player, Hernandez modeled his game after Derek Jeter’s. He later watched hitters like Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, and Hanley Ramirez.
Getting to play with Ortiz and Ramirez last season was an education for Hernandez, particularly with Ortiz in his final season.
“It was impressive, to see everything that David did,” said Hernandez. “I never expected to play with him. I saw him play all my life and then I was in the same clubhouse. It was amazing.
“He taught me a lot about preparing for the game and staying positive. I think about what he told me every day.”
Ramirez said he’s looking out for Hernandez now.
“That kid can help us,” said Ramirez. “He swings the bat and he can hit a fastball. I saw him play in the winter, too. He wants to be good.”
Because Rutledge is a righthanded hitter, he offers a better platoon partner for Holt at third base if that is needed. But Hernandez could present himself as a better offensive option in general.
“I can help this team,” Hernandez said. “I feel comfortable at three positions and come off the bench any time and give somebody a day off. I feel like I could be an everyday player someday. I’m still young.”
Assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez said Hernandez never seemed overwhelmed during his rookie season. When pinch-hitting opportunities seemed likely, he would ask for information on pitchers he might face, then take some swings in the cage.
“It’s tough to come off the bench when you’re that young,” Rodriguez said. “Marco was very mature with how he handled it.”
Hernandez got too heavy late last season, something he attributed to wanting to hit for more power. He has since thinned down, understanding that versatility will open doors.
“I need to win a spot here,” he said. “I come to the field prepared and I work hard every day. If I have to go back to Triple A, I’ll work hard to come back.
“I want to be in the World Series someday. That is the biggest thing.”
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.