On the Pharm: Hernandez gets look in center field

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On the Pharm: Hernandez gets look in center field

READING, Pa. -- “Now batting: Centerfielder, Cesar Hernandez.”

The public address announcer at FirstEnergy Stadium introduced the 23-year-old hundreds of times during the prospect's 102-game stint with Reading last year, but never quite like this. It used to be “second baseman, Cesar Hernandez,” but those days may be in the past.

On Monday night, Hernandez should have been on his way to Reno, Nev., to take part in the Triple A All-Star Game. He was elected to the game after batting .306 with 28 RBIs and 45 runs scored with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Phillies' organization, however, had other ideas for their Venezuela-born prospect.

About a month ago, the Phillies decided to experiment with Hernandez, who had been the IronPigs' starting second baseman for all but a brief nine-game call-up with the Phillies from May 29 to June 8. Hernandez regularly began taking fly balls in center field during batting practice and he advanced far enough to start five games last week.

It may be perfect timing given the injury to Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere (see story).

"Well, we feel like it's an option, and again, we don't know if that's what we're going to do, but we're going to look at it as quickly as we can," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. "This didn't start a few days ago. We've been doing this kind of behind the scenes for a while. Cesar Hernandez can help us on the major-league team. It may not be in an every-day role, it may be off the bench at some point in time, but he can run, he can steal a base, he's a switch-hitter, he can bunt -- he can do a lot of things. If he can play the outfield, it just gives us more options, because, honestly, it's a piece we don't have."

The Phillies are trying to find out if and where Hernandez has a future within the organization. Scouts love his bat and already think that part of his game is almost major-league ready. He's a career .293 hitter in seven minor-league seasons and was 7 for 28 (.250) with the Phillies earlier this year. However, he’s had some issues defensively. He’s already committed nine errors at second base this year and 83 in his minor-league career. After moving to the outfield with Lehigh Valley, Hernandez committed one error in 12 chances.

"We've got to figure out exactly how he can best help us in the major leagues because we do feel like he can help us up there," Jordan said. "We started talking about this, we started shagging some balls in center and we got our outfielder coordinator in there and started getting into it a little bit.

"We feel like the best way to get a good read is just doing it over and over and over consecutive nights. He's going to be fine, given enough time -- he could be a good centerfielder."

On Monday night, Hernandez played nine innings in center field, committed a fielding error in the fifth inning and made three put-outs. He also went 2 for 4 at the plate with a double, walk and an RBI.

"Cesar's come a long way. I had him two years ago in the Florida State League and we were fortunate enough to put him on the roster and it's paid off for us," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "He's become a better ball player in all facets of his game. He's stealing more bases now, he's hitting the ball with more authority than he did, obviously just getting older and learning his swing -- all those things help. He's becoming a baseball player right now and slowly learning center field."

Hernandez’s time with Reading will be short-lived. He’s expected to play two more games in center for the Fightin Phils before rejoining the IronPigs when they begin the second half of their Triple A season on Thursday. In the meantime, he’ll continue to fine-tune his defensive skills in hopes of earning a chance to make a new name for himself as an outfielder in the Phillies' system. 

And he’ll need to, because when Hernandez made his 2013 debut with Reading on Monday, he was the only player without a name on the back of his jersey.

Phillies-Marlins rained out Tuesday; makeup date to be determined

Phillies-Marlins rained out Tuesday; makeup date to be determined

Tuesday night's Phillies-Marlins game at Citizens Bank Park has been postponed because of rain.

Details for a makeup date will be announced at a later time.

The Phillies, winnners of four straight, were set to open a three-game set against Miami.

Following this series, the Phillies head out on a seven-game road trip starting Friday night against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Vince Velasquez, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday, will now start Wednesday night's game, while Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound Thursday afternoon.

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Former Eagle Vince Papale, the inspiration for the movie "Invincible," paid a visit to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon to meet Phillies outfielder Brock Stassi. Papale wanted to give him a copy of the film "Invincible" -- a movie Stassi has yet to see -- and talk to another Philadelphia athlete who has played the underdog role.

Papale said he couldn't help but get choked up when he first saw the video of Stassi being interviewed after he made the Phillies' roster (watch above).

"Brock's story came on and I started doing one of these," Papale said as he reached to wipe the fake tears from his eyes. "So I got my wife Janet and I said, 'You gotta come in and see this.' And I texted my son Vince down at Delaware and said, 'You see this guy? He's just like us.'

"I contacted (Phillies publicity director) John (Brazer) and texted him right then and said I wanted the film rights for this."

Stassi, a long shot to make the Phillies' roster, was the feel-good story of the spring. The six-year minor leaguer had a spring training to remember, hitting .306 (19 for 62) with six home runs and 17 RBIs.  

As always, when an underdog makes an impact in Philadelphia, there will be association to past Philly underdogs like Papale or legendary movie character Rocky Balboa.

"I did get a few ["Invincible" references on Twitter]," Stassi said of when he made the team. "A lot of people made that reference and I am honored to even be put in the same category as him."

Papale assumed the role of a reporter and posed a question to Stassi: "What kept you going?"

"Ever since I was drafted, I've believed in myself that I would be here one day," Stassi said. "And after my first spring, I was in extended spring training and that's a place you don't want to be when you are 22 years old at the time. And I ended up learning a lot about myself because you're playing on the back fields in spring training in the middle of the day, in Florida, in front of about five people, so it's really self-motivating.

"And that's kind of where I started to get the hang of pro ball and started believing in myself then. Because my first year was rough. My first year in Williamsport, had a terrible year. But, it ended up working out. It made for a lot of doubters. And it's fun proving people wrong."

Papale smiled and assured Stassi: "We call that the last laugh."