Hermida prepared to contribute to Sox
Outfielder excited to play for Boston, even in a bench role
BOSTON -- Despite an uncertain role and the fact that his at-bat total is all but certain to dip well below the 453 he averaged in Florida the past three years, Jeremy Hermida will not have any problem in his first season with the Red Sox.
Sure, Hermida wants to be on the field. Every competitor does. But when the subject of playing for the Red Sox is broached, Hermida has the hardest time concealing his excitement.
"I'm just happy to be [with the] Red Sox, to be honest with you," said Hermida. "My role will be what it is. I'll come into Spring Training and I'm going to work and prepare myself like an everyday guy. You never know what happens throughout the course of a season. So that's my job. And if it's being the fourth outfielder on Opening Day, I'm going to work at that and be the best I can at that."
When it comes to playing for Boston, location seems like it's just about everything for Hermida.
"Fenway, Wrigley and old Yankee Stadium, they're kind of the meccas of baseball stadiums," Hermida said. "I got a chance to play at Wrigley a good bit and loved it. I got to play at Fenway last year, and I was an instant fan -- just the fans, the environment and the stadium itself. I'm big on being able to step in to the same batters box as some of the legends of the game. To me, that's pretty cool."
Being that Hermida was the first acquisition made by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein this winter, it was clear that the left-handed hitter's role wouldn't be determined right away. Had the offseason gone in a different direction for Boston, Hermida could have projected into a more prominent role.
But once the Red Sox knew they wouldn't be retaining Jason Bay, they signed veteran Mike Cameron to play in center field. Jacoby Ellsbury is moving to Bay's old spot, left field. Right field will be occupied by J.D. Drew, while David Ortiz is back for his eight season as Boston's designated hitter.
So where does that leave Hermida?
"I don't know," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's a left-handed-hitting outfielder. We've got Jacoby [also a lefty] in left. We can always move Jacoby to center when Cameron doesn't play. J.D. has missed games in right, we know that, so there's a fit there.
"But again, I can't sit here today and say 'Jeremy Hermida is going to do this.' On one hand, I hope he gets the opportunity to play left because I think there's some things he can do offensively. On the other hand, if he's playing every day, something went wrong somewhere else. There's a lot to like about what he can do, but I can't sit here today and tell you where it would actually fit. He has been very good about understanding there's a little bit of not knowing, but he's happy to be here and he wants to fit in, so that makes it a little easier."
In 2007, Hermida hit .296 with 18 homers, 63 RBIs and a .369 on-base percentage. At that point, it seemed he was ready to live up to the scouting reports that led the Marlins to select him as the 11th overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. But then came the '08 dropoff, when Hermida hit .249 with 17 homers and a .323 OBP. He had similar numbers in '09, hitting .259 with 13 homers.
As Hermida knows by now, baseball is a sport of adjustments, and he plans on making more with his new team, helped by the watchful eye of hitting coach Dave Magadan.
"I'm all for it," Hermida said. "If you ever stop learning in this game, you've got a big problem. Going into Spring Training every year, someone's always got something to learn and can use some pointers."
One thing Hermida knows he would like to do is get back to the patient approach he had in the Minors, and in 2007.
"I've been a guy that's walked a good bit in my career," Hermida said. "I've gotten away from that at certain times trying to learn to be an aggressive hitter. Sometimes I had been too patient and gotten in trouble a little bit. But coming up through the Minor Leagues, I was a guy who had a pretty good on-base percentage. I know that's what they preach around here."
Is it tough to strike a balance from being too patient and losing the aggressiveness that it takes to be a good hitter?
"I don't know if there's necessarily a rule of thumb to follow," Hermida said. "If there was, I think everyone would do it. It's a tough thing. Mags has had got some guys on this team like [Kevin Youkilis] and [Dustin] Pedroia who do it pretty well. I'll take a little bit off of them and use it for myself."
Amid the likelihood that his main role will be off the bench, Hermida plans on utilizing lessons learned from a former teammate.
"I was fortunate to play with one of the guys who was very good at it -- Wes Helms," said Hermida. "To be able to watch him and watch his routine on an everyday basis not being an everyday guy, I've learned a lot about that. Even though I wasn't necessarily in that role, I've been able to watch him and learn what he does and how he prepares himself on a daily basis. I take a lot of what he does and learn from there."
If things go as Hermida envisions, Francona will be able to call on him at a moment's notice and be able to count on solid at-bats.
"You've just got to be ready, whether it's taking swings during the game or making sure you're loose all the time," Hermida said.
While Hermida's role will evolve over time, his enthusiasm is already right where it needs to be.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.