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Hermida looks to bounce back

Eddie Altamonte

Dec 31, 2005
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Hermida hopes for bounce-back year
02/22/2007 5:11 PM ET
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- It isn't surprising that a Florida Marlin won the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year Award based on how many young players were on the roster.
It's not even startling that shortstop Hanley Ramirez received that top NL rookie honor because of his obvious skills.

Looking back to this time last year, however, it is a bit baffling to baseball insiders that right fielder Jeremy Hermida never could generate any real consistency in his first full big-league season.

Hampered by a right hip flexor problem early in the year, followed by a stress fracture to his right ankle late in the season, Hermida ended up with a frustrating rookie campaign.

Before last season, Hermida was touted as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. He never put much stock in the hype.

"It definitely didn't turn out like everybody expected it to," Hermida said. "But all that stuff, the whole preseason Rookie of the Year talk, I told everybody last Spring Training that, 'Yeah, it would be cool, but all that stuff means nothing.' It's in one ear and out the other in my book.

"My job is to go out there between those lines and help this team win and get to the playoffs, and have a successful season. That's where your focus should be, and not anywhere else."

Having turned 23 in January, Hermida is bracing for a bounce-back season. A lefty batter with a smooth swing, he's looking to improve on his .251 average with five home runs and 28 RBIs.

"As coaches, managers and as an organization, I think you have to be patient with those guys," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If they are our guys, and we think they are, then you've got to be patient.

"They are going to go through a 2-for-30. Those guys who hit .320 at the end of the year, at some time, they struggled. We have to be patient with our players."

News and features:

? Marlins' Hermida seeks bounce-back year
? Fish notes: Sanchez getting second chance
? Marlins' Cabrera back where he belongs
? Marlins notes: Johnson taking it easy
? Ramirez's strong finish highlighted '06 season
? Marlins notes: Bullpen roles to be determined

? Dir. of player development Brian Chattin
Spring Training info:
? MLB.com coverage | Schedule | Ballpark | Tickets

Hermida was Florida's first-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, and the organization firmly believes that he is capable of being a highly productive big leaguer. On the fast track in the Minor Leagues, he enjoyed an All-Star season in Double-A in 2005.

But injuries led to inconsistencies a year ago, as he was limited to 99 games and 307 at-bats.

So while so many Marlins rookies excelled in 2006, Hermida mostly found himself cheering on teammates like Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson and Scott Olsen.

In the Minor Leagues two years ago, Hermida played against Uggla at the Double-A level. And a season before that, he was an opponent of Ramirez.

"Growing up and playing every level with Olsen and Johnson, I'm happy for them," Hermida said. "I couldn't be more happy for them. To have the success they had their first year, it's awesome.

"It just makes me want to be part of that even more, knowing what those guys can do, and I want to go do it, too."

Staying healthy is the first step for Hermida becoming a productive big leaguer.

He's already made one equipment adjustment in hopes of taking the pressure off his right foot.

After having several X-rays taken on his lower leg, it was recommended that he see an specialist near his home in Marietta, Ga.

"A special orthotic [support pad] was made to tilt my foot to take a little pressure off," Hermida said.

The pad is about a half-inch thick and slides into his cleats. He said his foot naturally tilted inward, and pressure was being placed on the smaller bones in his lower right leg.

The specialist made an imprint of Hermida's foot and designed the support pads.

"It took the pressure off the outside of my leg and it put it on my calf and my big bone, where it's supposed to be," Hermida said. "That's how it is for most people. It never gave me a problem before. But once I got [the support pad], my foot turned the corner quickly.

"It never bothered me before. But after I pulled [my hip flexor], I guess I was just running a little different and it reacted a little bit."

Hermida has a few sets of those pads with him, and extras are being made for his sneakers and dress shoes.

Hermida said he had a stress fracture to his right ankle area late last year, which limited him to a couple of pinch-hitting appearances in September. After giving himself a couple of months rest, he's now ready for a fresh start in his second season.

"It was a frustrating year last year," Hermida said. "It's tough to not be on the field and do what you can do. I watched these other guys have great years. It's exciting to come out here and be healthy, and put that uniform back on and be able to compete."

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