Kiké amped for 'elevated' competition in '20

Utility man discusses unique season, impending free agency

July 16th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- An overload of talent comes with the high-quality problem that Dodgers utilityman described on Wednesday.

“There’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to be after us,” said Hernández. “The media keeps hyping us up. We’re a very good team and everybody’s going to want to beat the Dodgers, so, we are very aware that when teams play us, their talent’s going to be elevated, every single game is going to be a meaningful game. It’s also going to make the season very exciting.”

The Dodgers are overwhelming favorites to win an eighth consecutive division title and reach the World Series for the third time in four years, if not finally win it. It’s well-publicized that this is new Dodger Mookie Betts’ free-agent year, but it also could be the final year as a Dodger for a group of pending free agents that have been significant contributors during this epic run, among them Hernández, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Pedro Báez and Alex Wood.

Betts last week alluded to the ramifications of electing not to play this season if he wanted to qualify for free agency and -- with far few dollars at risk -- Hernández made the same decision, further complicated by the recent announcement that he and wife Mariana are expecting their first child.

“It’s definitely a little bit scary that we don’t know what’s going to happen with this virus and how it’s going to change the world in the future,” Hernández said. “For me personally, if it was any other year, I would have seriously considered the thought of opting out.

“At the same time, thinking about the team we have this year and the opportunity we have, at least on paper, to do something special this year kept me motivated to come back and not think about the what-ifs. Here to play, have fun and win that World Series trophy.”

Hernández said there have been bits and pieces of conversations among other upcoming Dodgers free agents that this could be their last year together, but their focus is on this season. He said he’s comfortable so far with the protocols in place to keep everybody safe and healthy, but is uncertain how it will look once opposing teams and travel enters the mix.

“We know what’s at stake if you do something stupid and put yourself at risk and the entire team,” he said. “For now, have common sense and don’t be an idiot.”

Hernández dismissed the notion that a 60-game season isn’t long enough to overcome a slow start or establish a true champion.

“You’ve got to take what’s given to you, and 60 games is all we have,” he said. “From Day One, if we played like our heads on fire, I think we’re going to be all right. If we win our division, we’ll go into the postseason like we won a hundred games or something.”

Other notes
• Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, along with NBA stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, were among nine former Bruin athletes named to the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Roberts. “It’s something nobody can take away. To see myself in that elite group, I thought I’d never see the day.”

• Max Muncy, Gavin Lux and A.J. Pollock, a trio limited to little or no game action, were scheduled to take live batting practice on Wednesday against Michael Grove. Roberts said Muncy (injured left ring finger) could see game action by Thursday or Friday.

• The Dodgers were expected to test pumped-in crowd noise in Wednesday night’s intrasquad game.

• Roberts confirmed there is a possibility that umpires will travel on ballclub charters to help facilitate safer logistics. He called it “a last-resort-type thing,” but said he was fine with it.

• Minor Leaguer Tyler White has been given his release to negotiate a deal with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization. White was not included in the Dodgers’ 60-man player pool.

• In Wednesday night’s intrasquad game, third starter candidates Julio Urías and Alex Wood dueled, with Urías allowing one run in four innings and Wood allowing two runs in six innings with eight strikeouts. Muncy and Pollock both served as designated hitters in the same lineup.