Role change for Hermida not an issue

Role change for Hermida not an issue

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- You can call this a spring of change for Jeremy Hermida, and it has nothing to do with a new scruffy beard or an elaborate tattoo that now rests on his left shoulder.

For the first time in his Major League career, Hermida will be playing somewhere other then South Florida. After being considered a hotshot prospect and eventually becoming an everyday player for four consecutive seasons, he'll now be a reserve for the first time.

So, will these changes help Hermida become the premier outfielder he was once projected to be?

"I don't think it will hurt," Hermida said before Monday's workout. "It's definitely refreshing to come here, I can tell you that. Whether I need a fresh start or not, it's tough to say. But I'm just happy to be here. The excitement of this camp and just the way people go about things is something that I'm really excited to be a part of, and I'm excited to play a full season."

The Red Sox acquired Hermida -- a former first-round Draft pick who hasn't yet fully lived up to the hype -- in exchange for a couple of pitching prospects in November. At the time, general manager Theo Epstein called it a low-risk, high-reward deal.

Low risk, because Hermida will make $3.345 million this season and, after the eventual acquisition of Mike Cameron, looks to be the fourth outfielder to start the season.

High reward, because the 26-year-old lefty-hitting corner outfielder has all the tools to be a perennial All-Star in this league -- he just hasn't been able to cash that in yet.

"We're hoping that he'll be a huge asset to our team," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "On one hand, if he's playing a lot, something else went wrong somewhere. But we'd like him to play enough, because we like what he can do -- swings at strikes, works the count, got some power. Sometimes that clicks in at a different age. We'd like to be that team."

The Marlins weren't.

They made Hermida the No. 11 pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, and three years later, he was already in the big leagues. Hermida then showed some promise in '07, when a strong second half allowed him to finish the season with a .296 batting average, 18 homers and 63 RBIs in 123 games.

But over the past couple of years, Hermida's hit just .253 with a .335 on-base percentage, a .400 slugging percentage and 15 home runs per season.

"I think just a change of scenery is sometimes a good thing, and I think that's going to help him," said journeyman right-hander Joe Nelson, who played with Hermida in Miami in 2008 and was signed to a Minor League contract this offseason. "There's no preconceived notions. There's not the No. 1 prospect like he was coming up. Now, he's just an established outfielder in the big leagues.

"I think Herm is going to do just fine."

Hermida wants to show the world he can be a very productive player in the big leagues. But a sufficient number of at-bats are required to send that kind of message.

Still, though, Hermida continually talks about how happy he is to be a member of the Red Sox. And he's not concerned about being labeled as a reserve player for the rest of his career.

"I think being a reserve player in Boston is a little bit different than being a reserve player on any other team," Hermida said. "You look at the 25 guys that are going in that dugout, and you have some names in there.

"I don't think anybody strives to not be an everyday player. I think that's everyone's goal. ... As far as I'm concerned, you're definitely working to prepare yourself like that. If that's not the case, then you're ready when you're called upon."

Hermida, who has an above-average arm and has the type of gap-to-gap power that may be tailor-made for Fenway Park, finished last season with a .259 batting average and 13 home runs in 129 games. After some adjustments, he finally started to get going in August -- a month when he batted .312 -- but a rib injury limited him to just three games the rest of the way.

In the offseason, Hermida said he got "a lot of work done" on those ribs -- though it wasn't surgery, just "maintenance stuff to make sure it didn't happen again" -- and added that he's "felt fine ever since."

"It's funny how that happens. You can't get the injury when you're in a slump?" Hermida said. "I was definitely feeling good. You never know what happens, but everything happens for a reason, and I'm here now and happy to be here."

Hermida asserted that he won't be "shell-shocked" when he starts playing games at Fenway, but it's hard to discount the fact he'll be going from a team that consistently ranks among the lowest in the Major Leagues in average attendance to a club that's had 550 consecutive home sellouts.

Even though it's only Spring Training, Hermida is already digging the energy.

"I think it's awesome," Hermida said. "I love it. To walk out there and see the people that care about the organization and this team and the passion that they have, it's phenomenal. It really is, to be able to go out there and have that in Spring Training. It really makes it fun to come to the park every day. It's exciting, and it's just a pleasure to be a part of."

As for how big a part of that he'll actually be? Who knows what will play out during the course of a long season.

But Francona said Hermida is at least handling everything the right way so far.

"He's done a great job early on of accepting and being open to what we're talking about and things like that -- a real good attitude," Francona said. "Because he knows going in that it's going to be a challenge right away. But he's been really good about handling that."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.