The recent developments in CF for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have become quite the comedic tragedy of their own.
The debacle began with the release of CF Jermaine Mitchell on July the 1st. The voice of the IronPigs, Matt Provence mentioned it on twitter just yesterday.
After last evening’s 13 inning heartbreaker that makes it 5-12 since J-Mitch’s departure including the last 6 in a row.
Mitchell’s release has been well discussed – playing time – 40 man – options – money – blah -blah -blah.
What’s done is done and we look forward to J-Mitch returning to Coca-Cola Park where if he gets to play will probably (hopefully) destroy us.
Oh but wait there’s more centerfield comedy to come!
The Phillies approached Hernandez a couple of months ago about the idea of playing in the outfield and it caught him off-guard, to say the least.
“I said ‘wow, that’s crazy. I never played there, but I’ll try,’” Hernandez recalls. “I called my agent and said ‘I need an outfield glove.’ He said ‘what?’.”
The experiment became intense enough that the Phillies had Hernandez skip the Triple-A All-Star Game and instead, sent him to Reading to play center field while the IronPigs were off for the all-star break. Hernandez admits he was a little disappointed, but that he understood and wanted to do what he could to get better in the outfield.
“Even the glove is a lot different. It’s so big and my infield glove is too small,” laughed Hernandez, who has zeroed in on the toughest part of the position, at least for him. ”The fly ball over my head. I’m working on that. I take fly balls before practice and during BP.”
Seems even his agent was shocked and while Cesar was admittedly disappointed missing the AAA All-Star Game, here’s a 23 year old kid that just wants to play baseball. I’m certain if they asked him to catch he wouldn’t put up much of a fight – he’s a
ball player infielder- period.
Chuck expands on some reasons for this ‘experiment’ and certainly the more versatile Cesar is the more valuable to the Phillies he becomes.
First and foremost is the fact that Cesar Hernandez is out of options. If the Phillies don’t put him on the 25-man roster out of spring training next season, they would have to expose him to waivers before sending him down to Triple-A again. That means that the Phillies need to find a way to keep him on the roster, which might be easy to do if Chase Utley isn’t a Phillie. Utley is a constant in trade rumors and he’s also a free agent at the end of the season.
If Utley is still on the roster, then the Phillies are going to have to find something to do with Hernandez. Yes, he could spell Utley at second, but it’s not easy to carry a player – especially a rookie player – who can only play one position and who you want to have in the lineup on a regular basis. Let Utley walk? Possible, but the Phillies are on the record as saying that they want Utley to finish his career as a Phillie and Utley also has expressed his wish to finish his career in Philadelphia.
One can appreciate the young man’s eagerness and the Phillies willing to try to find him some playing time.
But here’s the rub for IronPigs fans:
Since July 4th the IronPigs have lost every single game Cesar Hernandez has played in centerfield.
Be clear in no way shape or form am I blaming Cesar for any of this. In fact, he’s one of my favorite players and heck it wasn’t his idea. I just Pray he doesn’t smash his arm into to wall during this little ‘experiment’.
The following stats further the tale of woe for IronPigs fans.
Since July the 1st, Cesar has played 8 games at 2b and 8 games in CF. (He was not in the lineup for the (double-header) scheduled game on 7/8 after playing in the completion of the suspended game from 4/10.)
In 8 games with Cesar at 2B the IronPigs outscored their opponents 34-27 and recorded 4 wins and 4 losses.
In 8 games with Hernandez at 2B he went 15 for 37 from the plate for a blistering .405 average with 8 runs, 5 RBI, 0BB, and 8Ks.
In 8 games with Cesar in CF the IronPigs were outscored 36-14 and went 0-8 including losing their last 6 in a row.
In 8 games in CF Hernandez went 7 for 30 (including two 0-fers) for a .233 average with 2 runs, 1 RBI, 4 BB, and 8K’s.
Read into that as you wish and obviously one player does not a team make. However, if an important piece has been removed from the puzzle perhaps it should be put back before it’s too late – even if it’s just for Cesar’s sake.
Such is the life in AAA baseball where it’s clearly not about winning. Regardless we will always support our ‘Pigs – at the same time we certainly hate to lose. Losing due to this ‘experiment’ is especially disheartening.
The question is how long will this ‘experiment’ continue?
Consensus among those I’ve interviewed say NOW!