Salad days: Cesar on pace for career year

Hernandez making case for future role with 50-game hot stretch

August 21st, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Has answered any questions about himself over the past several weeks?

He went 3-for-4 in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He hit his first career leadoff home run and doubled and scored in the fifth to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Since Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched him for two games in June, Hernandez has hit .359 (66-for-184) with six doubles, five triples, two home runs, 14 RBIs, 24 walks and a .911 OPS in 50 games.

Hernandez is easily on pace to have the best season of his four-year career. But is this run establishing himself as the Phillies' second baseman of the future?

"I never think about that," said Hernandez, who was also involved in turning three double plays Saturday. "I go year by year. If it happens, good."

Hernandez certainly is talented offensively, but he also has driven his managers and coaches crazy at times with too many mental mistakes on the field. It is why some believe could move from shortstop to second base whenever the organization deems its top prospect, J.P. Crawford -- who is at Triple-A Lehigh Valley -- ready to play every day in the big leagues.

"Every player has warts, some have more than others," Mackanin said. "[Hernandez] has got some areas to work on, and that's one of them. Certainly he's got ability and tools to help you win, especially if he's going to continue to hit the way he's been hitting and play defense."

Galvis is hitting just .235 with 20 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .638 OPS, so if Hernandez keeps his hot streak going, it will be difficult not to play him, even if that means the occasional mental error.

"We try to stay away from that," Mackanin said about the futures of Galvis and Hernandez. "I had a meeting with him and Freddy early in the season, just told them to go do what they can do and have the best year that they can -- not to worry about it, compete on a daily basis and let the cards fall where they may."

Hernandez's season turned for the better after being benched two consecutive games against the Twins at Target Field in late June. The Phillies had been trying to get Hernandez to take a different approach at the plate -- specifically, to stop upper cutting at the ball. Hernandez didn't listen, so Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa bluntly told Hernandez that he was not playing because he wasn't changing, and he was going to stay on the bench if he didn't start.

"He's leveled off his swing," Mackanin said.

"I remember that day," Hernandez said. "I worked with them a lot, and it worked."