Hernandez heeds advice from hero Molina
CHICAGO -- Growing up in Venezuela, D-backs catcher Oscar Hernandez idolized Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
So when D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, who had managed Molina in St. Louis, offered to put the two in touch, Hernandez could not say yes quick enough.
"Yadier Molina is my hero," Hernandez said. "Tony wanted me to talk to him. So we started talking during Spring Training."
Hernandez finally met Molina in person during the Cardinals' recent visit to Chase Field -- and it wasn't just a brief meeting, either. Instead, Molina and Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo pulled Hernandez aside after batting practice and started working with him on his receiving technique.
"[Molina] said, 'You look good with your hands, and I would like to give you some advice to get better,'" Hernandez said. "I said yes -- I mean, whatever I'm going to get from him is going to be good for me. We talked about my receiving and my blocking. Oquendo invited me to Florida in the offseason, so maybe I can train with Yadier Molina. That's like a dream. We'll see if I can do it."
Hernandez, 22, will have to wait a bit to start his offseason, since he will be one of the D-backs' participants in the Arizona Fall League, which runs into November.
The D-backs want Hernandez to get extra work in the Fall League, because he has not played much this year. A Rule 5 pick out of the Rays' organization last December, Hernandez broke his left hamate bone and missed most of the first half of the season.
Rule 5 picks have to remain on the Major League roster for the entire season or be offered back to the club they were drafted from, so the D-backs have kept him as their third catcher. Hernandez spent last season in the Class A Midwest League and, while he may be nearly Major League ready defensively, his offense still needs a lot of work.
"The learning and being around Welington Castillo and [coach] Glenn Sherlock every day has been really good for him, but nothing beats playing," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "And that's why this whole Rule 5 situation is tough, especially in his position, where we just haven't had enough innings for him to play."
Hernandez has made just 30 plate appearances with the D-backs this year and will all but certainly find himself back in the Minors to start next season. Still, he is not ready to call this year a lost one, in terms of development.
"I know I'm not playing every day, but honestly, you have no idea how much I've learned at the Major League level," Hernandez said. "I think it's going to be great for me. I don't know where I'm going to start out, but I have a good idea of how to do things better since I've been here."