CHICAGO – The Phillies filled the roster spots vacated by the trades of Michael Young and John McDonald Sunday morning by recalling Cesar Hernandez and Michael Martinez from triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Both players were expected to join the team Tuesday anyway after the IronPigs completed their season. Every player on a team’s 40-man roster became eligible to play in the big leagues Sunday.
Hernandez, 23, had primarily played second base during his minor-league career with the Phillies and even got his first big-league exposure at the position earlier this year when Chase Utley went on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
In early July, however, Hernandez started playing center field as the Phillies worked on a contract extension for Utley. That extension finally came last month and it will keep Utley here for at least two more seasons and possibly as many as five.
That means if Hernandez is going to crack the big-league roster next season, it will likely be as a utility player. In 116 games at Lehigh Valley, double-A Reading and with the Phillies, Hernandez has batted .310 with 14 doubles, nine triples and two home runs.
“We’ve been giving him opportunities to play all over the place because he has value in his bat and his offense,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “I think he’s good enough to be an everyday second baseman in the big leagues, but Chase Utley is our second baseman. This gives (Hernandez) an opportunity to come up here and play a little bit and I think Ryno (manager Ryne Sandberg) is going to give him an opportunity to play.”
The switch-hitting Hernandez missed a little more than two weeks from the end of July until the middle of August because of a wrist injury. After returning to the lineup, he played primarily in center field, but he also started four games at second base, one in left field and one in right field. He hit .315 in 15 games after returning from the wrist injury.
This is the fourth time this season Martinez has been recalled from Lehigh Valley, where he hit .300 in 71 games this season. Amaro defended the decision to keep Martinez around despite a .186 big-league batting average in 354 at-bats.
“He plays the infield, plays the outfield and what people don’t understand is that Michael is a role player,” Amaro said. “He’s not an everyday player. We don’t have any delusions about what Michael is, but he’s also a valuable player in the National League because he can play so many different positions. Not very many guys can play short and center and basically every single position on the field except catcher.”
Amaro also gave a scouting report on Rob Rasmussen and Nefi Ogando, the two players acquired in the trades for Young and McDonald.
“Rasmussen is a smaller lefty with a big arm,” the general manager said. “He’s starting now, but he could be a guy later on who could pitch in the bullpen. Lefthanders are always valuable. He’s viewed as a really strong makeup kid with a big arm.”
A second-round pick out of UCLA by the Marlins in 2010, Rasmussen is now with his fourth organization. He was traded to Houston by the Marlins and to the Dodgers from Houston. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound lefty opened this season with the Dodgers’ double-A Chattanooga team and went 3-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 12 starts, earning a promotion to triple-A Albuquerqe. After going 0-7 with a 6.34 ERA at triple A, he was sent back to Chattanooga in August.
Ogando is a 24-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic.
“Ogando has a real big arm,” Amaro said. “He can throw up to 97 (miles per hour). I guess one of our scouts saw him up to 100 once or twice, but he has a big arm and we’ll take a chance on a big arm.”
Neither player is on the 40-man roster, but they will have to be added after the season if the Phillies do not want to risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings.
Young gave the Phillies a statement after his trade to the Dodgers shortly before midnight Saturday.
“I had a blast playing in Philly,” he said. “Obviously we’re all disappointed with how the season unfolded, but Philly is an incredible place to play. Great fans and a great environment. I consider myself fortunate to have played for Chuck (Charlie Manuel) and Ryno. Ruben was always upfront and honest with me. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat to any player out there.”
Here is the Phillies' lineup for the series finale with the Cubs: Roger Bernadina, CF, Jimmy Rollins, SS, Chase Utley, 2B, Darin Ruf, RF, Cody Asche, 3B, Kevin Frandsen, 1B, Pete Orr, LF, Erik Kratz, C, Kyle Kendrick, P.