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Kiké Hernandez about to reap rewards of his versatility

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- If there is a silver lining to Howie Kendrick's hamstring injury, it's that Kiké Hernandez will get a chance to play more regularly, at least for the next month or so. And he has earned it.

Kendrick was the main thrust of the Dee Gordon trade with the Marlins, which grew into a three-team deal with the Angels. The Dodgers wanted more certainty on both offense and defense at second base with the veteran Kendrick, and in exchange for trading four years of Gordon (and subsidizing a year of Dan Haren) for one year of Kendrick the Dodgers were also able to extract three long-term pieces in reliever Chris Hatcher, catcher Austin Barnes, and Hernandez.

Hernandez, just 23, was part of the future, but his play in 2015 has accelerated his timetable.

Hernandez is hitting .285/.336/.508 in 55 games this year, with five home runs, 10 doubles and two triples in just 143 plate appearances. Against left-handed pitching he has been sublime, hitting .396/.459/.755 with nine doubles, two triples and two home runs in just 61 plate appearances.

What has kept Hernandez on the roster since his April 28 call up is his versatility.

He has started 10 games at shortstop, eight games in center field, eight games at second base, five games in left field, and even once in right field. Hernandez has filled in at shortstop when Jimmy Rollins needs a day off, and has started in center field against lefties recently to give Joc Pederson a day here and there.

That will continue, now with a lot more time at second base when he isn't playing somewhere else.

"We'll still use Kiké the way we've been using him," manager Don Mattingly said. "There's going to be days when those guys don't need days off, and that's when you'll see Kiké at second."

With two more starts in center and two more at second base, Hernandez will join Derrel Thomas as the only Dodger ever to start at least 10 games in a season at all three of shortstop, second base and center field. Thomas was the ultimate utility man in Dodgers lore, turning the trick in 1980, with 42 starts at shortstop, 14 starts in center field and 12 at second base. He also that season started once in left, played nine games in right field and four games at third, and even played five games and started three times at catcher!

For what it's worth, Hernandez is currently the Dodgers' emergency catcher, but thankfully hasn't had to be deployed yet in that role.

There were three other years with a Dodger playing but not starting 10 games at second, short and center — Davey Lopes in 1975, Thomas in 1981, and Chad Fonville in 1996.

Back in spring training, Hernandez knew playing all over was his best shot at playing time in 2015, even if it wasn't his long-term goal.

"The best way I can help the team win right now is as a super utility," Hernandez said in March "I'm only 23, I don't see myself as a utility player, but at the moment it's what I have to do to help the team win, so that's what I'm going to do."

So far, so good for Hernandez, who know gets a well-deserved chance to play even more.

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