2/22/2013 12:14 P.M. ET
Hechavarria looking to make a name for himself
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- High energy and intensity, coupled with enthusiasm and passion, made Jose Reyes a fan favorite in his lone season with the Marlins.
A four-time All-Star, the Dominican Republic native has global appeal. One of Reyes' admirers just so happens to be the player who is now being asked to replace him.
Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami's new shortstop, has long appreciated Reyes' passion. Growing up in Cuba, Hechavarria watched Reyes during his days with the Mets.
The two have never met, but their paths have certainly crossed.
As part of the Marlins' blockbuster, 12-player trade with the Blue Jays last November, Reyes and Hechavarria swapped organizations.
Hechavarria, who defected Cuba to Mexico in 2009, now has some some big shoes to fill in Miami.
If you're expecting Hechavarria to be the next Reyes, you might be disappointed. All the 23-year-old -- who doesn't speak English -- is striving to become is the best player he can be. Based on pure talent, he has a chance to eventually make a name for himself.
"There's no comparison to Reyes," Hechavarria said in Spanish. "He's a great player. I've always admired him, ever since I was in Cuba. I used to watch him and [Derek] Jeter on DVDs when I was there.
"It's true they have tremendous talent. Here, I'm just going to go out and try to do the best I can. If I play as good as him or not, that doesn't matter to me. I'm just going to go out and give my best effort, and I pray to God to have the health and mindset to do that. In the end, I'll leave it all on the field."
Defensively, Hechavarria may have more talent than Reyes. At the plate, he is still developing. In 41 games with the Blue Jays last year, he batted .254 with two home runs and 15 RBIs.
Hechavarria shows signs of eventually flashing some power. During a simulated game in camp, he drove the ball into the gap in right-center for a triple off of Henderson Alvarez.
"I like him," infield coach Perry Hill said. "He's doing everything we're asking him to do. He has a chance to be a very good player, for a long time."
Along with quickness, Hechavarria has a strong throwing arm.
"What he has to understand, your feet, your lower half, controls your upper half," Hill said. "I don't care how strong your arm is. If your footwork is not good, you can throw that out the window. Your arm strength doesn't mean a thing. Guys like that, who can throw, they think they can get away with a lot of things. They can't.
"That's one of the things that we're working on. We've got to smooth out the footwork a little bit. The better the footwork is, the better your arm is going to be."
The Marlins have had a string of productive shortstops, ranging from Alex Gonzalez, to Hanley Ramirez to Reyes.
Hechavarria has the makings to be another star at the position.
"I'm happy they gave me this opportunity," he said. "I'm going to take advantage of it the best I can. That's why I'm training hard. There's nothing I can do but train hard, give my best effort. In the end, what I do on the field will be the last word."
Although he is in a different environment, Hechavarria has some familiar faces in the Marlins' clubhouse. Catcher Jeff Mathis, also part of the Toronto trade, says foremost the shortstop is a good person.
"He's a good kid," Mathis said. "On the field, you see his hands and how smooth he is. The type of defensive player he is, and, obviously, he swings the bat too. You see how smoothly he goes about things."
Still looking to make his own mark, Hechavarria is drawing his share of comparisons.
Manager Mike Redmond said he reminds him of Edgar Renteria. Others in the organization say Hechavarria may wind up being a bit like Omar Vizquel.
Early in his career, Vizquel was a standout defensively, though it took a few years for him to produce solid numbers at the plate.
What isn't in question is Hechavarria's athleticism and smooth fielding style. His talents were seen at a young age. He played for the Cuban Junior National team in 2008, and in 2010, he signed a four-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jays. He will make $1.75 million this season.
How quickly his bat develops will determine how successful he will be in the big leagues.
"I'm working everyday in the cages on staying closed to hit the ball up the middle and not open myself up," Hechavarria said. "I think with that work I'm doing, I'll make better contact."