A big season in the minors put Dilson Herrera on deck as Daniel Murphy’s potential replacement at second base for the New York Mets someday.
That day came much sooner than anyone imagined.
After a rapid rise through the New York Mets’ system, Herrera arrived at Citi Field on Friday and went 0 for 3 with an error in a 4-1 win over Philadelphia. He was called up Thursday night from Double-A Binghamton when Murphy went on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 25, with a strained right calf.
It’s a temporary stopgap for now, but the 20-year-old Herrera could be New York’s second baseman of the future. Not only did he become the youngest active player on a major-league roster, according to STATS, he was the youngest player in the Eastern League this year.
"Beyond the numbers, he’s come sort of out of nowhere. He’s done everything we could’ve asked for," general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Herrera was acquired from Pittsburgh with reliever Vic Black in the trade that sent outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck to the Pirates on Aug. 27, 2013. A right-handed hitter with speed and pop, he wasn’t even invited to big-league camp this spring and had never played with anyone on New York’s current 25-man roster, Alderson said.
Generously listed at 5-foot-10, Herrera opened eyes with his offense and skipped over Triple-A in an unprecedented ascent for a Mets position player. He began this season at Class-A St. Lucie before a June 19 promotion to Binghamton, where he batted .340 with 10 homers, 48 RBI, 17 doubles and 50 runs in 61 games.
"In the transfer report, his manager was effusive about his personality, his energy, his athleticism on the field, leadership by example. Real sparkplug in that sense," said Alderson, who acknowledged he’d seen Herrera play all of three games. "You have to give a lot of credit to what he’s done just over the five months of this season. He deserves this opportunity."
Herrera, who homered Thursday night for Binghamton, also had 23 stolen bases and a .379 on-base percentage in his two minor-league stops this year. Still, he was stunned to learn he had been called up Thursday night. He said all his gear was already on the Binghamton bus when he got the news.
"I was just in complete shock. I couldn’t believe it," Herrera said through a translator. "But I did work really hard to get here, so yeah, I feel prepared and excited."
Now he’ll try to help the slumping Mets, who avoided falling into last place in the NL East on Friday night.
Wearing uniform No. 2, Herrera received a warm hand before his first at-bat and swung at the first pitch, grounding into a double play. He made a bid for his first hit in the seventh with a line drive that was caught by leaping second baseman Chase Utley.
"I was just happy that I had good contact. After that, I can’t control the rest," Herrera said through a translator. "It was a little bit of nerves going into the first inning, but after that it was fine."
Herrera played second base and batted seventh, making him the 14th player born in Colombia to appear in the majors.
"It’s a real sense of pride to be here representing my country," he said. "My family is very proud as well. There’s not very many of us."
Herrera also has played some shortstop, a glaring hole for the Mets, but will stay at second base for now, manager Terry Collins said.
"He’s going to get some extended playing time," Alderson said. "We’re thrilled to have him here and see what he can do."
Murphy, who could be sidelined more than two weeks, is batting a team-high .301 with nine homers, 34 doubles and 53 RBI. He made his first All-Star team this year and was leading the NL in hits.
"I talked to him last night. I’ll tell you, Murph’s down," Collins said. "It’s not about who’s playing second base. He had some pretty big goals set, and rightly so, that he was chasing. Big goals. And now we’re looking at quite a lengthy DL stint to where, you know, how much is going to be left at the end of the year?"
The 29-year-old Murphy has worked hard to adjust to second base, but his defense is spotty at best. Likely due a large raise on his $5.7 million salary in arbitration this winter, he can become a free agent following the 2015 season. So the frugal Mets might soon explore other options at second as they attempt to build a playoff contender.
"He should be down about the injury, not about anything else that’s taking place," Collins said. "As we all know, when Dan Murphy gets back, his name will be in the lineup."