MILWAUKEE — Elian Herrera has become this year’s yo-yo man for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Every team has one, usually the final cut in spring training. When a position player is needed, this player comes up to fill the void, only to head back to the minor leagues when a roster spot must be opened up.
Herrera is currently in his fourth stint with the Brewers in 2014 and has already been optioned back to Triple-A Nashville three times in the first four months of the season.
"It’s tough," Herrera, who is married with three kids, said of the constant moving. "If I was just by myself it would be like, ‘Oh, OK.’ But my family has to move, my kids and stuff. I know the situation I am in. I know they can send me up and down, up and down. You have to be strong and not let this change my mind.
"Wherever I am, I have to be ready. Maybe one day I can stay here for a long time, but for now this is what it is. You have to be happy. It’s better to be like this than to stay down all the time."
Not only has Herrera moved back and forth between Nashville and Milwaukee, he’s also shifted all over the diamond. Herrera played second base, third base and all three outfield spots in Triple-A and has appeared at five different positions for the Brewers.
Herrera was recalled Saturday to fill the roster spot vacated when Jean Segura left the team following the tragic death of his nine-month-old son Janniel. With Jeff Bianchi unable to play last Sunday due to a sore right elbow, Herrera made his first career big-league start at shortstop in the series finale against the Cardinals.
While he’s played shortstop in 67 minor-league games, Herrera only had one game at shortstop under his belt since 2012 before Sunday.
"I take groundballs every day," Herrera said. "I know it is not the same but I just be ready for if something is going on.
"You have to be ready, right? You have to stay comfortable everywhere."
Herrera not only collected a career-high five hits Sunday in Milwaukee’s 11-2 rout of St. Louis, but also the 29-year-old played well defensively at shortstop. With Segura’s status with the team still up in the air as of Wednesday, the Brewers will likely use a combination of Bianchi and Herrera at shortstop for the time being.
Part of the reason Herrera has gone back and forth to the minor leagues so much was his inexperience at shortstop. The Brewers have very little coverage behind Segura outside of Bianchi, leaving it important for Herrera to prove to manager Ron Roenicke he can play the position in more than just an emergency situation.
Herrera has hit .276 with five doubles in 90 plate appearances with the Brewers and .304 with nine doubles and two triples in 124 plate appearances in Triple-A.
"I liked him at short; I thought he did a nice job," Roenicke said Sunday. "The more he’s out there, the more we see him — with Bianchi not being able to go out (Sunday) — it’s important to have a guy that can do it.
Wherever I am, I have to be ready. Maybe one day I can stay (in the majors) for a long time, but for now this is what it is. You have to be happy.
"It’s good for him, and it’s good for us to see that and have more confidence in him."
Whenever Segura is ready to return to the Brewers, Herrera will likely take the familiar trip back to Nashville for the time being. He experienced a similar type of year in 2012 when he had three different stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Herrera hit .251 with a homer and 17 RBI in 67 games with the Dodgers in 2012 but spent most of 2013 with Triple-A Albuquerque.
"My dad says, ‘Don’t let this put you down. Stay strong and just remember there are a lot of guys who would like to be in the same position you are in right now,’" Herrera said. "Just be happy and thankful for what God is giving to you.
"It’s crazy, but this is a blessing. Every chance I have to be here, I always say, ‘Thank you God for giving me the chance.’ I spent 10 years down (in the minor leagues) and now in the last two years I have been up and down. This is more of a gift."