NEW YORK — Before Ben Revere fractured his right ankle, Cesar Hernandez moonlighted in center field. The second baseman started there July 4 and 5. A week later, Revere was injured.
That hastened the Hernandez in center experiment, but the Phillies insist the design is for purposes beyond 2013.
"The jury is out," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "This is more of a long-term-type thing than a call-him-next-week sort of thing. He hasn't played much out there.
"It's more geared toward his situation; he is out of options next year. If he is going to make this club, he is going to have to play somewhere other than second base solely. If Chase [Utley] comes back, he has to be a utility player. That's the genesis of this."
The Phillies have said on numerous occasions that Hernandez is out of options, which means he must make the team out of spring training in 2014 or be placed on waivers. A player receives three option years and he can be sent to the minors an infinite amount of times during those years. Hernandez was added to the Phillies' 40-man roster prior to the 2011 season. He was optioned at the conclusion of spring training in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Thus, he has used his three option years.
But the rare chance at a fourth year exists. From Baseball America:
Major League Baseball grants a fourth option to teams when a player has five or fewer professional seasons under his belt but already has burned through three optional assignments. For this purpose, the Collective Bargaining Agreement credits a player with a season of service when he spends 90 or more days on the active list during a season.
Hernandez was signed as a 16-year-old from Venezuela. He spent partial seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, Gulf Coast League and New York-Pennsylvania League from 2007-10. He did not accrue 90 days in any of those seasons.
His first full season was 2011; he now has three. So he fits the criteria of having five or fewer professional seasons. He has burned through three optional assignments. He appears eligible for a fourth option year.
Hernandez is not automatically granted this; the Phillies must apply for it. The team and player would benefit from it, especially because an everyday role does not seem likely in 2014. Hernandez turns 24 next May. The Phillies would probably prefer to have him stashed in the minors as insurance while he continues his development, rather than a utility player in the majors. (Just use Freddy Galvis as an example.)
So while the Phillies are exploring Hernandez's value as a utility man, it may be completely unnecessary. For now, Hernandez is not an option in center.
"With Ben's situation, we might have tried to expedite it a little bit," Proefrock said. "We're examining all sorts of options with regards to center field. We're not putting all of our eggs in that basket."
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