Pablo Sandoval’s not the only Red Sox infielder who changed his diet this winter.
Marco Hernandez, a star of spring training, was on the postseason roster for the Red Sox last year as a rookie because of his base running ability.
Since October, the 24-year-old has added more muscle while appearing to retain that speed.
Visibly, Hernandez looks stronger. He was 215 pounds last year, and is now 205 or 208, he said.
“A little bit bigger this year," Hernandez said. "I was working hard on my body and trying to lose weight. ... At the same time, I gained muscle weight.”
Hernandez indicated a switch in diet was a bigger factor than a change in exercise routine, saying he worked out as he had in the past.
“A couple times a week, and try to run and prepare and try to get my body in shape for the whole year,” Hernandez said. “I started to eat differently. Started to eat more healthy.
For what it’s worth: the 2017 Sox media guide lists Hernandez at 210, while last year’s guide had him at 200.
A left-handed batter, Hernandez entered Tuesday hitting .415 with a .489 on-base percentage and .756 slugging percentage in 15 games and 41 at-bats in the Grapefruit League.
"I got more strength and more range defensively and I feel better at the plate too," Hernandez said.
But, he’s unlikely to make the team because he bats left-handed. The Sox could use a right-handed bat to complement Pablo Sandoval.
That’s where Josh Rutledge comes in. Rutledge was released by the Sox last November but they reacquired him a month later when they chose him off Colorado's roster in the Rule 5 draft. However, as a Rule 5 pick the Sox have to keep him on the 25-man roster or risk losing him back to the Rockies.
Plus, Hernandez can be optioned to the minors.
“Roster is going to be taken into account, a number of factors, whether it’s Kyle, other guys that are vying for positions,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida. “I will say this: In [pitcher Kyle Kendrick’s] case and Marco Hernandez’s case, Josh Rutledge’s case, guys are doing everything in their abilities with the opportunities provided to perform and they’re doing just that.”
One thing to consider is that Hernandez has showed some capability against lefties in recent times.
He hit .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. His clip at Pawtucket in 2015 was .315 in 54 at-bats, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.
“I’ve been good against lefties my whole career,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez hit .294 in 40 big league games last season overall, going 4-for-8 against lefties.
Farrell recently said that Hernandez looks like an everyday player. The Sox picked him up in December 2014 from the Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront.
“He’s grown in a number of ways. Physically he’s maturing,” Farrell said recently. “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...This is an everyday player if you really start to break him down and look at what he’s capable of doing.”
Hernandez said he’s not worrying about the competition.
“I don’t come to the ballpark and think, ‘I got to make the team, I got to make the team,’” he said.
Hernandez had five separate stints in the major leagues last year. He acknowledged riding that shuttle was “a little bit tough.” He made just 10 starts.
So what can be expected of him this year, with his added strength?
“Same, same,” Hernandez said. “Line-drive hitter, gap hitter and occasional power.”