Enrique Hernandez has every opportunity to impact the Red Sox in 2021

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  • Enrique Hernández
    Puerto Rican baseball player
  • Alex Cora
    Alex Cora
    Puerto Rican baseball manager

Tomase: Cora, Sox looking for Hernandez to take the lead originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox didn't hire Chaim Bloom to stand pat, and the team's chief baseball officer has wasted little time remaking the roster.

Since last year's last-place finish, Bloom has overhauled the 40-man, importing no fewer than nine players who could break camp with the big league club, and parting ways with former stalwarts like center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and left fielder Andrew Benintendi.

All of these new faces lead to a question -- which one will make the biggest impact in 2021?

There are no shortage of candidates, from relievers Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura, to starters Garrett Richards and Matt Andriese, to outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero, to utilitymen Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana.

But considering the plans manager Alex Cora has for him, the best answer is Enrique Hernandez.

A battle-tested veteran of the last six postseasons with the Dodgers, culminating in last year's World Series title, Hernandez is no stranger to the big stage. He's a winning player from a winning organization who routinely earned plaudits from teammates and coaches for being a strong leader.

Tomase: Cora expressing confidence in 'deep' Red Sox rotation

He'll assume a similar role in Boston, where he will also be given a full-time job for the first time in his career. A jack of all trades who has played every position except catcher during his seven years in the big leagues, the 29-year-old Hernandez should start and see the bulk of his action at second base, though he's also capable of moving around the outfield.

"I've been doing it for seven years now," Hernandez said of his versatility. "It's something that helped me get to the big leagues and I've been doing it since Day 1 in the Bigs and it's something that I take a lot of pride in. I know it's not easy, but it keeps it fun for me, keeps me on my toes and just gives me more opportunities to be in the starting lineup, which is what I'm looking for."

Starting at second isn't where his new responsibilities end, however. Hernandez also owns the inside track on the leadoff spot in the order, where Cora hopes he can hunt fastballs and set the table for the All-Star caliber hitters that follow him.

He has made a compelling case for the job by hitting .353 with a .706 slugging percentage this spring.

"I like hitting leadoff. I'm not going to lie to you," Hernandez said. "I want to hit leadoff. Alex challenged me to earn that spot, and I feel like when I hit in the first inning, I'm a little more involved in the game and it also gives me a chance to see the starting pitcher maybe one more time, maybe a third time, and I'm just trying to put good ABs together, either try to barrel some balls up or get on base however way I can. I know the guys hitting behind me are really, really good, so my job as a leadoff hitter is to try to get on base and score some runs. Hopefully I can do that and hopefully score 100 runs this year."

One hundred runs? The Red Sox will take it. That should be more than enough to help make Hernandez the biggest impact of any newcomer.