Day by day, Dodgers’ Kiké Hernandez might be growing from role player to every-day guy

first_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Kiké Hernandez has spent his first five years in the big leagues trying to shed one label for another – every-day player.For the first time, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, he can see that happening.“Yeah,” Roberts said before Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. “Does that mean he’s going to start every game this series? Maybe, maybe not. But this is the first time I see that he has a legitimate case to be an every-day player, yeah.”Hernandez has always had value as a role player. He plays seven positions and might be the best defender on the Dodgers’ roster at a few of them. But he has always been limited to playing against left-handed pitching because of severe splits – a .221 career average and .665 OPS against righties, .266 and .847 against lefties. Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire “I’ll never be done saying thank you to Chase Utley.”Roberts sees the growth in Hernandez but he also sees refinement in his approach and swing as being instrumental in smoothing out the inconsistencies in Hernandez’s game.“There has been a mechanical component to it with him, kind of getting on plane sooner with his swing,” Roberts said. “That’s kind of the mechanical part of it. I think more important there’s a commitment to using the big part of the field and also just really appreciating the value of staying in the strike zone and not always trying to slug.“So there’s the mechanical piece to be able to stay on the baseball when the ball is going away from you, with the secondaries (breaking pitches) typically, and to not always try to slug allows you to see the ball a tick longer. I think those three things have allowed him to be the player he is.”PITCHING PLANSBraves manager Brian Snitker said before Game 2 that “we’re going to lean toward (Kevin) Gausman” to start Game 3 in Atlanta on Sunday.“That being said, I was going to send him back (to Atlanta) today but we’re not,” Snitker said.Instead, Gausman was available to pitch in relief Friday “just in case something happens tonight.” Snitker already used one starter (left-hander Sean Newcomb) in relief in Game 1 after starter Mike Foltynewicz lasted just two innings.Gausman was obtained from the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline and went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 10 starts with the Braves.LEFT OUTAfter platooning aggressively in September, Roberts used the same eight position players in Games 1 and 2. That could continue with the Dodgers likely to see only right-handed starters from the Braves.So Roberts said the Dodgers will have a simulated game Sunday afternoon at SunTrust Park so that players like Matt Kemp, Brian Dozier and David Freese can get at-bats in a live setting and stay “current.”Related Articles That imbalance has leveled off this season. Hernandez hit .252 against righties, .260 against lefties, with a higher OPS (.833 to .780) and more home runs off righties (12) than lefties (nine). Combine that with Brian Dozier’s deep slump since arriving from the Minnesota Twins at the end of July and a window of opportunity opened for Hernandez, who made 39 starts against right-handed pitchers during the regular season and the first two games of the postseason.Hernandez took advantage by hitting .349 with a .976 OPS over the final two months of the season. He hit one of the Dodgers’ three home runs in their Game 1 win.“I think for like three years now everybody knows what I can do with my glove and my arm or whatever, but it was about putting it together at the plate,” Hernandez said. “The last two or three years I’ve been fighting myself, fighting my brain … wanting to play every day really bad and not really focusing on the big picture and taking it one day at a time.”The 27-year-old Hernandez has always had a Gold Glove-level ability to find his way in front of a camera. But this year he has gone from wearing a banana suit to T-shirts celebrating his adopted ‘dad,’ veteran Chase Utley. The relationship with Utley has helped him mature and understand what a work ethic really looks like, Hernandez said.“I had probably the best season of my career so far,” Hernandez said. “Obviously I’m not going to say that my talent, my ability didn’t have anything to do with it. But I give most of the credit to Chase, because the work ethic that I created by being around him was what allowed me to have a pretty solid season and contribute a lot to the team. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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