Big play vs. Puig boosts Herrera's stock at short
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig's loss was a big gain for one of the bench candidates in Brewers camp.
Elian Herrera has impressed Brewers coaches with his play at shortstop so far this spring, including a series of athletic plays against his former Dodgers teammates Saturday in a rare start at the position. The best came at Puig's expense, when Herrera dived toward the hole between shortstop and third base, jumped to his feet and threw out Puig by a full step.
"There's not many guys who can make that play he made yesterday," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Not just to dive and catch it, but to get up there that quick and throw that strong over to first base. I'm really happy to see that play."
Herrera has mostly manned second base, left field and center field in his professional career, but he was urged to focus on shortstop by Brewers officials after the team claimed him off waivers from the Dodgers in early November. By the end of the Dominican Winter League season, he was the regular shortstop for Estrellas de Oriente.
"That was my position when I was a kid," he said. "But it was a while. I was like 12, 13 years old. … They already know I can play second base, third base, but [shortstop] is the one that's really needed right now, and that's where I focus right now."
Herrera prides himself on defensive versatility and said he owed a debt of gratitude to former Minor League manager Carlos Subero, who was hired by the Brewers over the winter to manage Double-A Huntsville.
"This is kind of like my dad here," Herrera said.
Herrera is different from incumbent utility man Jeff Bianchi in that Herrera is also a true outfielder, and he can play center field with proficiency. Non-roster invitee Irving Falu, another utility option who got the start at shortstop Sunday, is also a more natural outfielder.
"Somewhere, we need to get them in the outfield, but I'm really interested to see what happens on the infield first," Roenicke said. "The more important role for them is going to be the infield. If they can go out there in the outfield, yeah, it's valuable, but … if we're going to only go with one utility infielder, shortstop is a huge role that you have to be able to do at a high level."