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Hernandez has bigger things in mind

Hernandez has bigger things in mind

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- On Sunday, infielder Anderson Hernandez capped off a great Winter League season with a game-winning single in the 12th inning against the Cibao Giants to give the Licey Tigers the Dominican Winter Baseball League championship.

Now, on the Major League front, Hernandez awaits the challenge of competing for a spot on the Nationals' roster. The ultimate goal is to become the everyday second baseman.

"I'm going for the second-base job," Hernandez said during the Tigers-Giants series. "I haven't been told anything specific [by the Nationals], but I want to make the team however I can, in whatever role I can."

Hernandez, 26, believes being versatile is in his favor.

"I can do a lot of things -- play short, second, pinch-run, put down a key bunt," Hernandez said.

Hernandez spent most of the 2008 season with Triple-A New Orleans, then a Mets affiliate. It looked like he was going to have one of his worst seasons of his career, after compiling a .203 batting average in 125 games.

Then on Aug. 17, Hernandez's luck began to change. He was traded to the Nationals for reliever Luis Ayala. Hernandez played often and hit .333 with 17 RBIs in 28 games.

"I know they were pleased with what I did after I got there," Hernandez said of the Nationals.

Another plus for Hernandez in Washington is the fact that manager Manny Acta is someone he's very familiar with. Acta managed Hernandez when they were with Licey, and the skipper also coached the second baseman when they were in the Mets organization.

"I've known Manny for a long time from our days [with Licey], then the Mets and now the Nationals," Hernandez said. "We've always gotten along very well. We're good friends."

During the 2008-09 Dominican Winter League season, Hernandez took his offensive game to another level, hitting .365 with 20 doubles, six triples and 29 RBIs. He finished second in the MVP voting behind Nelson Cruz. In the championship series, Hernandez was the consensus MVP, hitting .474 (9-for-19) with four RBIs, including the decisive one in Game 5.

Looking ahead to Spring Training, Hernandez feels he has a better shot of staying in the big leagues than when he was with the Mets, where shortstop Jose Reyes and second baseman Luis Castillo are the double-play combination.

"I think so," Hernandez said. "I really did get more of a chance there [in Washington]."

On the Nationals, Hernandez's main competition at second could come from Ronnie Belliard, his Licey teammate.

In fact, during the 2008-09 season, Licey had a strong presence from the Nationals with Hernandez, Belliard, right-hander Daniel Cabrera and catcher Jesus Flores.

"We're already like family," said Hernandez with a big smile. "We all know each other, and that should make things easier going into Spring Training."

David Venn is a senior editor for LasMayores.com, MLB.com's Spanish Web site. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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