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Jonathan Herrera’s preparation to ‘do anything during the game’ contributes to walk-off hit

07.05.14 at 5:51 pm ET
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Even on days when Jonathan Herrera isn’t starting — which have been a lot of games in 2014 — the utility infielder has a specific routine that he goes through during every single game to get ready should the situation summon his abilities.

For the first couple of innings, Herrera sits in the dugout and watches the game like a spectator. As the fourth inning strikes, Herrera begins to separate from the rest of his teammates and begins to prepare in the back rooms of the Red Sox dugout starting with a stretching routine. By the fifth inning, Herrera is in the batting cage, which is located right around the corner of the dugout exit.

After a couple of swings, Herrera begins to run up and down the tunnel that joins the dugout and the clubhouse. At that point, he begins to loosen his arm up so that he is prepared for any situation by the seventh inning. Whether he is asked to pinch hit, come in as a defensive replacement or asked to run the bases in a late-game situation, Herrera is prepared to contribute.

Herrera, who was acquired for lefty Franklin Morales in an off-season trade with the Colorado Rockies, keeps himself ready precisely for situations such as Saturday afternoon’s half of the doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. The 29-year-old came up to the plate in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. with Orioles lefty T.J. McFarland on the mound and the winning run on second base in the form of Jonny Gomes. He had a specific goal is front of him, something he prepared the whole game to be ready for.

Herrera delivered, blooping a broken bat single on a 91 mph fastball from McFarland over the infield to allow Gomes to score from second and cap off the first half of the doubleheader.

The walk-off hit was the first in Herrera’€™s career. Postgame, Herrera was just happy to be able to contribute to the team’€™s victory in some way, shape or form.

“I was ready,”€ Herrera said. “€œ[I was] looking for a pitch in the zone that I can put the barrel on the ball and see what happens.”

The decision to pinch hit for Bradley, who is hitting .224/.296/.347 against left-handed pitching in 2014, was an easy one for Red Sox manager John Farrell. With a southpaw on the mound, Farrell had two right-handed options on the bench: Herrera, who is hitting .229/.300/.257 against left-handed pitching in 2014, and Mookie Betts.

Herrera’€™s six years of major league experience gave Farrell the confidence to go with the utility infielder over the rookie sensation.

“Herrera is a veteran guy and he’s been in that spot before,”€ Farrell said. “In that spot, it’s a little unfair to Betts and that’s the way that things worked out.”

Farrell gives credit to both Herrera and Gomes for knowing their roles on the team as bench players. The Red Sox skipper says that their major league of experience allows them to know their roles for the team, allowing them to maximize their opportunities when they are called upon.

“€œThey know their role,”€ Farrell said. “€œWe anticipated a lefty being on the mound in the ninth inning so we had some lead time to give them a chance to prepare… Guys stay prepared, understand the game and executed it well.”

Given the situation, Herrera felt there was a shot that he would be called upon to pinch hit at some point during the game. Herrera recognized his role with the team and prepared accordingly.

“€œI’ve been [pinch-hitting] the last couple of years so I feel confident,”€ Herrera said. “I know my role and I know who I am and I prepare myself every single day to do anything during the game on any day.’€”

Despite the sporadic nature of Herrera’€™s playing time, Farrell has no hesitation in giving him the opportunity to make a contribution.

“€œHe’s got experience at it and to his credit, he sits for seven to 10 days and when he does get on the field, he finds a way to contribute, defensively or offensively,” Farrell said. “Whether it was out in Oakland or other opportunities for him, he’s done a great job in that role.”

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