After rough start, Hernandez finishing strong

After rough start, Hernandez finishing strong

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants will spend the offseason placing as much of this season as possible in the proverbial rear-view mirror. Few players will be in the driver's seat for jobs next year. Gorkys Hernandez is among the few who could be steering himself back onto the Opening Day roster.

The diligent Hernandez has proven to be a capable reserve outfielder. His value was readily apparent Saturday, when he rapped three hits and scored both of the Giants' runs in a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hernandez isn't the answer to the Giants' hopes for acquiring a big-time center fielder before Opening Day next year. But he has been useful in his current role, starting 76 of 155 games.

"When I have an opportunity, I try to do the best I can for myself and the team," Hernandez said.

Nearing the end of his first full Major League season, he'd like nothing more than to repeat the experience next year.

"I love it here," he said. "I love my teammates, everybody."

For a while early in the season, Hernandez appeared destined for a demotion to Triple-A Sacramento. He looked shaky on defense in a couple of games and hit .154 in April. He didn't lift his batting average above .200 until June 16.

However, Hernandez has hoisted his average to .258 despite playing the last couple of weeks with inflammation in a sprained left wrist.

Giants starter Madison Bumgarner expressed appreciation for Hernandez's perseverance.

"I don't know if he's getting more comfortable by the experience that he's getting, but he's definitely making the most of it and growing as a player," Bumgarner said. "It's not hard to see."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy also has noticed Hernandez's sincere effort. Asked about the 30-year-old's prospects for retaining a roster spot, Bochy said, "He certainly has made a statement, I think you have to say that. If you look at the early go, I know there were a lot of questions why Gorkys was here. But he's one of our better athletes, I think that's fair to say. He can play anywhere in the outfield.

"... A kid like this, who can play the defense that he can and show that he can do some things with the bat, he's in the mix."

Hernandez quickly thrust himself into the mix of Saturday's game, doubling on the game's first pitch from Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

"I like that approach," Bochy said. "I want the guys to be aggressive. I don't want them to be afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes it seems like we're not quite as aggressive as we could be. It's great to work counts. But if that first pitch is there, take advantage of it. It may be the best pitch that you get. Just be ready to hit it. It puts a little more pressure on the pitcher that he can't just lay the first one in there."

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.