Phillies Notebook: Sandberg preaching versatility to rookie Hernandez

Posted: September 16, 2013

WASHINGTON - Ryne Sandberg was a 22-year-old infielder adjusting to life with a new team when he showed up to spring training in 1982. The Cubs asked him to try playing centerfield.

"I played a handful [of games] out there," the Phillies manager recalled, before groaning. "It was a long way from home plate. I was used to being so close to the action."

Sandberg, who went on to become a Hall of Fame second baseman, can then relate to Phillies rookie Cesar Hernandez.

Hernandez, 23, was thrown into centerfield 2 months ago at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Before this season, Hernandez had played all but one of his 472 in the middle infield, most often at second base.

But Hernandez is suddenly seeing everyday play in the big leagues in centerfield. He started in center for the eighth time in 10 games last night since being recalled from Triple A.

"At the beginning, I was a little bit nervous, but the more I played, the more comfortable I got," Hernandez said yesterday. "I feel good now."

The positional change hasn't affected Hernandez on offense, either. After hitting .314 in 107 games between Triple A and Double A Reading this season, Hernandez entered yesterday batting .333 (10-for-30), with three doubles while hitting in the leadoff spot.

Since Chase Utley re-signed 2 months ago, Hernandez, like his fellow Venezuela native Freddy Galvis, can only help his case for being a bench player in 2014 by being as versatile as possible. Sandberg even said he'd like to see Hernandez play on the left side of the infield at some point before next season, too.

"That's a good thing down the road," Sandberg said of the ability to play multiple positions. "You never know when they'll need it. For a young player to have some versatility, that's how you become a regular. That position opens up and you have some experience there, and, basically, that's what happened to me. I was able to break in because there was an opening at third base, and I had never played third base.

"It used to be taught that way, for guys to break in possibly as a utility player and one day earn the right to be a regular. That was the mentality. For that, I needed to learn two or three positions. When an opening came up, they were good to go, and then they became a regular."

Hamels near 100th win

Cole Hamels, who starts tonight opposite fellow lefthander Gio Gonzalez, enters the final 2 weeks of the season closing in on a career milestone: He is two wins away from collecting the 100th victory of his career.

For comparison's sake, Roy Halladay collected his 100th career win in his 225th big-league game while Cliff Lee won his in his 213th game. Hamels (98-73) has pitched in 242 games in eight big-league seasons. Hamels is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 13 starts since early July.

Phillers

The Phillies' bullpen worked a perfect 4 2/3 innings after Roy Halladay departed on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Phillies' 'pen went at least 4 2/3 innings without allowing a hit, walk or hit batter since May 22, 1998, at Montreal.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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