Hernandez looking for foothold with Mets

Luis Hernandez

Second Base
New York Mets


The last time Mets fans saw Luis Hernandez, the infielder had painfully fouled a ball off his right foot during a Sept. 18 game while facing Atlanta’s Tim Hudson. Still in discomfort, Hernandez then homered on the next pitch, and was barely able to get around the bases because he had suffered a broken right metatarsal bone.

Hernandez underwent surgery three days later. He mostly has been in Port St. Lucie since, except for about 10 days at Christmastime when he returned home to his native Venezuela.

He finally was cleared to take swings for the first time Monday in a cage under the watchful eye of assistant trainer Mike Herbst, as the Mets opened camp for rehabbing players as well as voluntary early reporters.

Hernandez said he obviously did damage on the foul ball, and the foot completely gave way after his subsequent home-run swing.

“When I stepped into box again trying to hit, there was a little pain,” Hernandez recalled about the moments between fouling the ball off his foot and the next pitch, which he took deep. “When I started running it was very bad. I was thinking it was my last chance to run the bases and was giving it everything I could to score. As soon as I felt the pain and the pop, I knew it was done for me. I just ran with all my heart.”

Hernandez hopes to advance to doing fielding drills next week. He also hopes to be on the same schedule as other players when position players officially report Feb. 19.

“I try to get ready for when the camp opens,” he said. “I’ll go there and try to do the best I can to get the job and help the team no matter what every day or as a backup.”

Hernandez probably now faces an uphill battle to make the team anyway. GM Sandy Alderson has acknowledged Chin-lung Hu, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for left-hander Mike Antonini, is the likely backup middle infielder, rather than Hernandez. And Hernandez has not been mentioned by Terry Collins in the second base competition.

Still, the Mets cannot send Hernandez to the minors without passing him through waivers. So a good spring performance could open up a job with another major league team if Hu does emerge, as expected, in the backup middle infield role. (Hernandez conceivably also could be deemed not ready and placed on the DL to delay a decision.)

Hernandez, who also has major league experience with the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, hit .250 with two homers and six RBIs in 44 at-bats for the Mets last season.

As for the foot’s response to Monday’s hitting, Hernandez said: “It feels pretty good. I’m just getting used to it.”