Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis and Kyle Kendrick.
They all have done their part. But come Opening Day, it probably won’t be good enough to avoid starting the season in the minor leagues.
Hernandez and Travis have the top two Grapefruit League OPS of any Red Sox hitters with 30 or more at-bats, while Kendrick has been the team’s best starting pitcher. But a combination of factors figure to have the trip on the outside looking in when it comes to cracking the 25-man roster.
Perhaps the entire camp’s best player to date, Hernandez, is hitting .405 with a 1.208 OPS in 37 at-bats. The 24-year-old has also shown an ability to handle second base, shortstop and third base without any issues, while also showing an impressive burst on the basepaths after losing some pounds over the offseason.
Even before notching two triples in the Red Sox’ loss to the Twins Sunday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell identified Hernandez as something more than just a utility guy.
“To think back when we acquired him for Felix Doubront, he’s grown in a number of ways,” Farrell said. “Physically he’s maturing. He’s getting bigger, he’s getting stronger. He did a great job in the offseason of getting himself in shape with morning workouts and playing at night in the Dominican Winter League. He’s an explosive player. he can run, he’s got tremendous bat speed. We have him in this competition for a utility job. There’s a lot of people … this is an everyday player if you really start to break him down and look at what he’s capable of doing. Yet he’s in a group that’s talented, that’s deep so finding his place, that’s ongoing.”
The reality at the moment is that unless something happens to somebody, Hernandez won’t beat out Josh Rutledge for the other utility infielder spot. Why? He hits left-handed.
With Brock Holt serving as the extra lefty hitter, Rutledge provides a better fit because he protects the Red Sox if Pablo Sandoval has any struggles hitting from the right side. Rutledge is also a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to make the 25-man roster or be sent back to Colorado.
Travis is hitting .333 with a 1.133 OPS and three home runs in his 33 at-bats. But with Hanley Ramirez still able to function as a hitter, and Mitch Moreland acquitting himself quite well at first base, the 23-year-old will have to wait his turn.
As for Kendrick, there might be a chance he gets a crack at the bigs. But, right now, it’s still a longshot.
If Drew Pomeranz’s sore triceps sets him back at all, that would seemingly open up a spot for Kendrick for that first time through the starting rotation. It should be noted, however, that the righty would need to be put on the 40-man roster. (That might be made possible from the Red Sox moving on from outfielder Bryce Brentz, who is out of options.)
If nothing else, Kendrick has offered the Red Sox a much-needed security blanket, allowing just three runs in his 18 Grapefruit League innings (1.50 ERA). A bonus for the Red Sox is that 32-year-old doesn’t have a opt-out in his deal until June.