On one hand, Teoscar Hernandez has been one of the Blue Jays’ most impressive hitters this season. He has one of the best outfield arms in the American League, dare I even say “Jose Bautista-esque”?
Yet, when it comes to defense, Hernandez evokes nightmares of Moises Sierra’s “deer in the headlights” play in the outfield.
Hernandez’ defensive play with the Blue Jays has been painful this season. His -14 defensive runs saved and five errors are the most among the team’s outfielders. Clearly, Hernandez is going through some growing pains as a full-time outfielder for the first time in his career.
Mistakes will be made in the outfield and players experience occasional lapses in judgement. However, one thing that won’t be tolerated by big-league managers is a lack of effort. Behind the scenes, John Gibbons let it be known he wasn’t pleased with Hernandez’ sense of urgency on a routine play.
We’re only hearing about it now thanks to Kevin Pillar’s impromptu appearance in the Sportsnet broadcast booth on Tuesday night. He revealed why Hernandez, his fellow outfielder, was taken off the field mid-game. Not because of an injury, but due to a lack of hustle.
(Hernandez) had a moment earlier in the year when Gibby felt like he wasn’t giving his entire effort in the outfield. He got pulled out – his spot came up in the lineup. Good on Gibby’s part to do that.
I felt like, once again, as a veteran outfielder here, I had to talk to him and talked about how extremely talented he is and how that’s something that can’t happen.
There’s only one game when Hernandez exited prematurely; that Interleague contest at Citi Field against the Mets on May 15th. It was the game when Noah Syndergaard hit a ball down the first base line and Hernandez positioned himself poorly, got his food stuck underneath the padding and got absolutely nothing on his relay to the infield.
Just in case you may have forgotten how it happened, a reminder about one of the worst plays you’ll see from a Blue Jays outfielder.
Yes, he four-hopped the ball to the infield. Even I could even get the ball to Yangervis Solarte in four or fewer hops. As a result, the ball skipped into first base and Syndergaard’s single turned into a double and the Mets scored on the play.
Later in the fifth inning, Hernandez was taken out of the lineup and was replaced by Deck McGuire as the reliever entering the game. The truth is, it was an Interleague game and Gibbons needed Hernandez’ spot in the lineup, but from the comments Pillar made, it was also a convenient time to remove Hernandez from the game for his actions.
No matter it’s left or right field, defense has been an issue for Hernandez all season long. On Tuesday night, he misplayed a routine fly ball in left field which led to two unearned runs. Coincidentally, he sat out Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins.
Gibbons said he wasn’t “punishing” Hernandez for that poor play, but let’s be honest, he was.
Gibbons on Hernandez sitting today:
"I'm not punishing him by any means, but he's got to get better out there." #BlueJays
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) July 25, 2018
Whether it’s the miscues by Hernandez in the outfield, Yangervis Solarte’s lack of hustle out of the batter’s box, Kendrys Morales’ bi-weekly TOOTBLAN display or just the overall poor play in the field, the Blue Jays haven’t played a fundamentally sound brand of baseball this year.
And to think, the second half of the season has only just begun. At times, this team looks like they’re still playing in Spring Training.
Hernandez undeniably has a gift at the plate, but he still has a lot to learn in the field. “Training on the job” is a perfect way to describe this situation, which means we may not have witnessed the last of Teoscar’s adventures in the outfield.