OSTON — For three seasons the Boston Red Sox have entered spring training hoping that Dustin Pedroia would be able to make a return to second base on a full-time basis after the franchise stalwart had his career disrupted by a knee injury in 2017.
Those hopes ended when the four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner announced his retirement, concluding what had been a merry-go-round of surgeries, rehab attempts and setbacks for the longest-tenured player on Boston’s roster and the only holdover from the 2007 championship team.
The Red Sox took another step in moving on when they officially announced the signing of infielder Enrique Hernández to a two-year contract for a reported $14 million.
“The team has a lot of really good players…probably the reason I wanted a two-year deal instead of one is I get invested in teams and my teammates,” he said.
Speaking of the expectations Boston fans have for their teams, he added: “I know that they’re not going to be OK with a multiple-year playoff drought.”
While the 29-year-old doesn’t have Pedroia’s experience, he offers yet another injection of youth and versatility at second, a position that has been seen a platoon of players since Pedroia’s injury.
Hernández is a career .240 hitter with 71 homers with 227 RBIs in seven seasons, most of them with the Dodgers. He played 48 games in the pandemic-shortened season last year and 17 more in the postseason, batting .308 with two homers to help Los Angeles beat the Atlanta Braves in the NL Championship Series en route to winning the World Series. He also was a member of the Dodgers’ 2018 World Series team that lost to Boston.
“It’s never every day you can go from a franchise like the LA Dodgers to another one like the Boston Red Sox,” Hernández said.
He arrives in a time the Red Sox are looking to reset after following up their 2018 championship season by missing the playoffs each of the last two years.
Hernández can play multiple positions but spent 30 of 48 regular-season games in 2020 at second base and has played 200 games there during his career. He’ll enter spring training joining a group of players who’ve spent time at second, including Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis and Jonathan Arauz.
“The goal is to come in and be the everyday second baseman,” Hernández said. “But I also understand how valuable it is for me to move around and play, I guess you could say, above average defense at multiple positions.”
He said he was told that he can expect to get at least some time in center and in the other outfield positions as well. He also could occasionally relieve Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, a position he played growing up.
“It keeps it fun for me,” Hernández said.
He also is looking forward to playing for manager Alex Cora, who he has known since he was 10 years old. Hernández’s father was a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and also was a winter ball coach in Caguas, Puerto Rico — Cora’s hometown.
In addition, Hernández played for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic when Cora served as its general manager.
He said he talked to Cora about five or six times this past offseason, keeping a running dialogue of calls and text messages. He also sought advice from current Dodgers and former Red Sox players David Price, Mookie Betts and Joe Kelly, who all raved about Cora. It helped to make his decision to sign in Boston that much easier.
Hernández said being able to play for a Puerto Rican manager will be special.
“Coming over and playing for Alex, I don’t know if I can say it’s a dream come true because when I was a kid I was just imagining myself playing in the big leagues,” Hernández said. “But it’s pretty close.”