By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — When asked to pick the best play shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has ever made for the Miami Marlins, infield coach Perry Hill happily fielded the question, selecting a grounder scooped up on the grass behind second base two years ago in Arizona that ended with a 360-degree pirouette and an out.
Hill then volunteered his runner-up choice, a running catch of a popup against Colorado last year. Next he cited a throw Hechavarria made from his knees on the infield grass against Cincinnati.
“I can go on and on and on,” Hill said.
When it comes to improbable plays by Hechavarria, the list is long, even though he has been a big-league starter for only two years. As the Marlins’ lone infield holdover from 2014, he’s considered a cornerstone of their plans to become perennially playoff contenders after a decade of mostly losing.
Along with sometimes sensational defense, Hechavarria began to provide pop at the plate in 2014, batting .276 with 10 triples, which tied for second-most in the majors.
“I’m proud of my performance last year,” Hechavarria said.
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill liked it, too.
“Our shortstop is a Gold Glove shortstop,” Hill said. “He made tremendous strides defensively and offensively.”
Actually, Hechavarria was only a Gold Glove finalist last year.
While his knack for eye-popping plays draws plenty of notice, he wants to reduce his errors. He had 14 in 2014, which ranked him in the middle of the pack among regular shortstops, and 15 in 2013.
“When you get lost in making the highlight plays, that’s when the errors come,” the Cuban defector said through a translator. “You’re trying to throw too quick or make a throw from too deep, and you lose your mechanics.”
Perry Hill said that because Hechavarria is so athletic, he’ll always make more than his share of spectacular plays.
“What we want from him is the consistency on the balls hit at him,” Hill said. “Those have to be outs every time. That’s what he has to master.
“The best teacher in the long run is game experience, and that’s what he needs. This year I expect him to turn the corner.”
Hechavarria ranked seventh among major-league shortstops last year in fielding percentage. He ranked fourth in range factor and total chances per nine innings.
He’s eager to be No. 1.
“One of the goals of mine is to win the Gold Glove one year,” Hechavarria said. “That’s one of the greatest achievements I want to achieve. Whether it’s this year or next year, I’m always going to want to win one.”
Hechavarria might benefit from some stability at second base, where the Marlins started seven players last year. This season he’ll work with All-Star Dee Gordon, acquired in a trade with the Dodgers.
“Dee has great speed and good hands,” Hechavarria said. “The combination of us two is going to go a long way, since we’re both good defensively.”
Gordon said he has enjoyed watching Hechavarria’s glove work from up close during spring training.
“He’s awesome,” Gordon said. “I just want to complement him.”
And each time Hechavarria comes up with another defensive gem, Gordon will be there to compliment him.
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