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Bulked-up Hernandez faces uncertain future

Second-base prospect Kingery nearing Major League readiness
Special to MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez arrived at Spectrum Field on Sunday after focusing this offseason on adding muscle and hoping to add a little more power to his overall game.

"I basically did the same thing I did last year with my personal trainer because we saw results," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "I can feel it in the cages. Feel stronger and I can see a difference. I like it."

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez arrived at Spectrum Field on Sunday after focusing this offseason on adding muscle and hoping to add a little more power to his overall game.

"I basically did the same thing I did last year with my personal trainer because we saw results," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "I can feel it in the cages. Feel stronger and I can see a difference. I like it."

This will be a make-or-break spring in many ways for the 27-year-old switch-hitter. He was frequently mentioned in trade rumors as the team went through an offseason overhaul. With prospect Scott Kingery seemingly ready to begin his career at the big league level, the question became where Hernandez fit into the club's long-term plans.

"I tried not to pay attention to that," Hernandez said. "I know that there were teams interested in me, but all I care about is playing baseball, and I want to do it well. If I can continue to do it here, great. If I want to do it somewhere else, then I'll do it somewhere else. Right now, I'm focused on doing it for this team here."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In 2017, Hernandez set career highs in runs (85), doubles (26) and home runs (9) and tied his career high for batting average (.294). He was also on pace to top his previous bests in hits, RBIs and stolen bases before a left oblique injury landed him on the disabled list in June, ultimately costing him six weeks over the summer. Hernandez has been quietly solid in his five-year big league career, compiling a .284 average with a .357 on-base percentage while adding double-digit steals in each of his last three seasons.

Kingery, ranked as the No. 1 second-base prospect per MLB Pipeline, hit a combined .304 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 26 home runs, 65 RBIs, 29 stolen bases and an .889 OPS with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. The 23-year-old is trying not to buy into the hype and isn't worried about when he will break through with the big league team.

"I think that is something that happens to a lot of guys. You start worrying about when that will come or what you need to do to get there," Kingery said. "For me, I know what I need to work on, and I'm not going to be disappointed if I start back in Triple-A. I'll work on that stuff. I'll just give myself the best shot to get moved up."

Video: Top Prospects: Scott Kingery, 2B, Phillies

This spring, the Phillies are giving Kingery more reps at third base, where he played just four games last season at Triple-A. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler hinted that Kingery might also see some time in the outfield. Where he ends up on the field will be determined, in part, by Hernandez's long-term future with the team.

Kapler compared the situation to one he saw when he was a coach with the Dodgers. At the time, top prospect Cody Bellinger, a first baseman by trade, was blocked at the Major League level by Adrian Gonzalez, prompting the team to move Bellinger to the outfield.

"We are thinking about this in terms of what is the best way for Scott Kingery to make an impact as soon as possible on our Major League roster," Kapler said. "One of those ways is to give him more options."

Though Hernandez hadn't had an opportunity to introduce himself to Kingery, he said he would welcome the possibility of sharing the diamond in some form.

"If they can keep him and me, along with everyone else, in the lineup at the same time, I think we will have a real potential to win," Hernandez said.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in Clearwater, Fla.

Philadelphia Phillies, Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery