Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Kiké Hernandez is ceaselessly more than you realize

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

Kiké Hernandez is nothing if not a man of personas. And if we know nothing else, we know he’s not nothing.

For Dodger fans in the wake of December’s big trades, it started with, “Who was this guy?” Soon after, there was the question of “What do we call him?” because the guy the Dodgers acquired was Enrique Hernandez, but wait — he has a nickname. What’s his nickname? Oh … we can’t actually call him that, can we? Oh, you mean with an accent. Fine. Just remember the accent. Remember the accent. Like in “Seinfeld”: You’ve gotta use the accent! Or, Who?! Who doesn’t want to use the accent?!

Cary Osborne gave us a slice of Hernandez’s engaging personality at FanFest in January, but maybe that became hard to recall come Spring Training, which Hernandez began with 13 hitless at-bats, before cracking a single — and then, notably, a smile. From hitless nobody at the start of March, Hernandez emerged as a curious wonder by month’s end, tying Joc Pederson for the team lead with six home runs, while playing five positions.

Hernandez was not considered indispensable enough to make the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster at the start of April, but once again, a few weeks changed all that. He was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 28 — and unlike so many others who rode that shuttle, Hernandez hasn’t made a return trip. And it doesn’t look like he’s going to.

So now we’ve got a handle on him, right? Utility player. Someone waiting for his moment to pitch in, who in the meantime will quietly recede into the background.

Uh, not exactly. Rally Banana theater, anyone?

For a team whose personality is still often questioned, the 23-year-old Hernandez provided a yellow jolt.

On the field, he made his reputation with plays both big and balky. And that bat started to come around even more. At the end of May, he was OPSing .696. In June, he OPSed .769. Since July 1? A .432 on-base percentage, .692 slugging percentage and 1.124 OPS.

Oldtimers Day LuncheonNow we know Kiké Hernandez, right? There’s nothing more we can learn. We know his strengths, and we know his limits. What other abilities could he have?

Like potentially playing every day, in the wake of second baseman Howie Kendrick’s hamstring injury …

“I don’t think it’s any different,” Hernandez said Monday. “I’ve already played every day at the Major League Level, last year when I was with Houston, so it’s not something I’ll be new to. I’ll be the same way I’ve been taking my role this year, which is every day I try to get an opportunity and try to make the best of it and try to help my team win. That’s how I’m going to take this one, if Donnie (Mattingly) and the rest of the coaching staff decide to give me the chance to play. It doesn’t really change anything.”

Like playing in the pressure of a pennant race in August and September …

“We’ve been through it all year,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m part of a first-place team, so that really won’t change anything. I’m just another guy in the lineup, so there’s no extra pressure or anything. Look around the lineup and look at me — I don’t think there’s anything I have to pressure about.”

Like facing more right-handed pitching after generating most of his 2015 offense against lefties

“My whole career I’ve been a better hitter against right-handed pitchers,” he said. “This year, it’s been a little different, because I’ve done most of my at-bats against left-handed pitchers, or at least lately. So yeah — I don’t really see it as an obstacle or anything. Once I start facing righties every day, it’ll be all right. It’s still baseball. I’ve faced more righties than lefties my whole life. If I wasn’t able to hit right-handed pitching, I don’t think I ever would have gotten to the big leagues.”

Like his Rally Banana persona affecting his game …

“All of that comes with my personality,” he said. “I think I have a little bit of a different personality when it comes to energy and intensity and happiness. I don’t really see it (relating to how I play), I just see it as I’m really spontaneous, and when I think about something, I just do it.”

Oldtimers Day LuncheonThe bottom line is that Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez is at once ever-growing and more than you already knew — and it’s up to the rest of us to keep up. He’s not some minor-league throw-in. Two weeks shy of his 24th birthday, whether at one position or all of ’em, he’s a budding everyday player, determined to succeed.

“I’m a big believer that when you’re on a winning team, you get better just by being on that team,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what you do. Just by being on that team you get better, because you’re playing every day to win, and when you play to win, that’s how you become a better baseball player. (Even) by watching, every day I learn something new just in little, different situations, even if it’s not me it’s happened to, I can apply it to my game. I would say this whole season has been great for me, and it’s going to be a really, really good thing for the rest of my career.”

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1 Comment

  1. oldbrooklynfan

    See above. I’m using two computers and neglected to move one of them down.

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