Phillies' Galvis rooting for longtime pal Hernandez

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cesar Hernandez' new-found versatilty helps get roster spot.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cesar Hernandez' new-found versatilty helps get roster spot.
Posted: March 28, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - As a couple of their country's best teenage baseball players more than a decade ago, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis became fast friends.

Although their respective hometowns in Venezuela are a few hundred miles apart, the two then-future Phillies infielders have known each other since Galvis was 13. They first met when Galvis' boyhood baseball team made the 4-hour drive to Valencia from Punto Fijo.

"The first time I went to his hometown to play, I stayed at his house," Galvis was saying yesterday at Bright House Field. "When they came back to us, he stayed at my house. So that's when we became good friends. We'd see each other every year. We became like family."

Less than a week ago, Galvis was a lock to be on the Phillies' Opening Day roster when the season begins on Monday in Texas. But after battling a MRSA infection last week, Galvis will be staying in Clearwater to continue to rehab.

He hopes to join the team in mi-April. In his absence, Galvis is rooting for Hernandez to take his spot as a utility infielder on the Phillies roster.

"That'd be good - that's like my brother right there," said Galvis, now 24. "So if I'm not there, I know he'll do good."

In the final few weeks of spring training, Hernandez, 23, is trying to follow Galvis' path to being on his first Opening Day roster. Hernandez, a natural second baseman, began playing third base in minor league games earlier this month and made his debut at shortstop in a minor league game for five innings last Friday, the day Galvis' MRSA was diagnosed.

Hernandez made his first start at third base in a Grapefruit League game on Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers.

"At third, you see the ball from a different angle, the same at short," Hernandez said. "But I've played shortstop in Venezuela and in 2007 and 2008. Third is a little more difficult. The reaction time, the ball is hit a little harder than at second and short."

Hernandez misplayed a bouncing ground ball off the bat of Nick Castellanos in the sixth inning and was charged with an error.

"He just stopped moving and was caught flat-footed on that particular ball and bobbled it," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said of Hernandez' only fielding chance yesterday. "I wish he would have had a little more action down there."

Entering the game hitting .281 (9-for-32) in 19 games this spring, Hernandez went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts yesterday, with his first two strikeouts coming against Justin Verlander.

One tough game isn't likely to derail Hernandez' path to winning one of the Phillies' bench jobs.

In the last week, the team has lost three players regarded as front-runners for reserve roles: Galvis, Darin Ruf (oblique) and Kevin Frandsen (opted for free agency and signed with Washington after the Phillies outrighted him to Triple A on Sunday). Frandsen, who received $900,000 from the Nationals, was likely viewed as expendable in part because the team simply likes Hernandez' tools better.

Although he's not as gifted as a fielder as Galvis, Hernandez is a superior hitter than his countryman (a career .294 hitter in the minor leagues) and an above-average baserunner, too. After introducing him to centerfield in the minor leagues midway through last summer, the Phillies have been working Hernandez into the two positions on the left side of the infield.

"He can do it," said Galvis, who made an impressive transition from shortstop to second base in the final month of spring training 2 years ago when Chase Utley's knee injuries resurfaced.

"Both of us, we're the kind of guys that are used to playing different positions," Galvis continued. "If we're back home, playing softball or whatever, we'll play outfield, infield, whatever. So the only thing for him is to keep working at every position and getting the experience so you can keep getting better and better at each position. He can do it."

Eight summers ago - on July 2, 2006 - Hernandez and Galvis were both 16-year-olds who realized boyhood dreams when they signed professional contracts with the Phillies.

Galvis began his career at short-season Williamsport and quickly moved onto Low-A Lakewood while Hernandez played his first two seasons with the Phillies' team in the Venezuelan Summer League. Oddly enough, the two friends never became teammates until last season, when both played at Triple A Lehigh Valley and then with the Phillies, too.

Sandberg, who said he isn't opposed to keeping Hernandez as his lone infield reserve when the season begins, also wouldn't be against having both Hernandez and Galvis on the bench.

"I think that'd be the best of all worlds," Sandberg said. "I think they bring two different things to the table. Freddy, obviously a defensive whiz, and Cesar with his bat and switch-hitting. But I think Cesar's defense has come a long way and he's really shown improvement there. But you have two guys like that and their versatility going forward, that'd be a huge plus. Not only that, but I look at both of them as starter material as far as a guy's day off and I feel very comfortable with that. Their young energy and athleticism, it goes a long way."


Domonic Brown was pulled after playing three innings in the Phillies' 1-0 loss to the Tigers. Ryne Sandberg said Brown was been battling "reoccurring flulike symptoms." Brown missed four games last week while ill, but started his fifth straight game on Wednesday . . . The Phillies released righthander Mike Stutes. Stutes had been outrighted off the 40-man roster on March 11, after being one of the first cuts in big-league camp. Stutes, 27, appeared in just 22 games with the Phillies in the last two seasons while battling shoulder issues. In 2011, as a rookie, Stutes was one of the most valuable pitchers in the Phillies' bullpen: He went 6-2 with 3.63 ERA in 57 games, racking up 58 strikeouts while walking 28 in 62 innings . . . A.J. Burnett will start the Grapefruit League finale today (1:05 p.m., TCN) when the Phillies host Toronto. The Phillies will fly to Philadelphia after the game.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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