Hernandez rewards Giants' faith with career game

Replacing Span, center fielder tallies 4 RBIs to fuel victory

Hernandez rewards Giants' faith with career game

PHOENIX -- It's worth remembering that Gorkys Hernandez probably avoided going to the Minor Leagues by sending himself there.

There was nothing minor about Hernandez's performance Tuesday night in the Giants' first victory of the season, an 8-4 decision over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He replaced an injured Denard Span (left hip) in center field and drove in a career-high four runs, two each on a second-inning single and a fifth-inning double.

A outburst such as this from Hernandez might have seen far fetched toward the end of Spring Training. He was struggling to keep his batting average above .200, endangering his status as San Francisco's projected fourth outfielder. The burden weighed heavily on Hernandez, since he was replacing the exceeding popular and highly effective Gregor Blanco.

However, Hernandez may have saved himself by volunteering to take a crash course in hitting by playing in several Minor League exhibitions and intrasquad games during the last few days of Spring Training. A late surge pushed Hernandez's exhibition batting average to .211. But the degree of his improvement, combined with his defensive prowess, prompted the Giants to keep him on the Opening Day roster over Justin Ruggiano.

The Giants essentially wanted Hernandez to prove that he deserved a spot on the team.

"You like to see the player produce and show that he's ready to start the season with you," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's our only other true center fielder, so it was tough sledding for him."

So maybe Hernandez deserved some good luck. Batting with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning, Hernandez connected with a Patrick Corbin slider just solidly enough to bloop it into right field.

"Sometimes it happens," Hernandez said. "I didn't hit it hard."

Three innings later, Hernandez hit another Corbin slider harder to help fuel San Francisco's five-run uprising.

Hernandez, whom the Giants signed as a Minor League free agent after the 2015 season, subscribes to the credo of the reserve.

"You have to be ready all the time," he said. "You don't know what's going to happen."

Ultimately, contributions such as Hernandez's are essential to team success.

"I've said this so many times: The bench plays such an important role in your season," Bochy said. "Those guys need to come through and deliver for you. It makes it easier to rest guys when something like this happens. A guy shows up and can't go, so you put a guy in there who softens the blow of losing your regular."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.