Jays' Hechavarria Adjusts To New Culture

DUNEDIN, FLA. — The first season was one of adjustment for Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. The adjustments are continuing this season, and it seems only a question of when he will get his shot in the majors.

Hechavarria made progress last year even as he moved up a level and adjusted to life in North America and learning English. In a sense, baseball was the least of his challenges. He struggled at the plate early in the season, after signing last April a $10 million deal that included a $4 million bonus.

"Everything is different than it is in Cuba, but the most difficult thing so far has been the English barrier," Hechavarria said through an interpreter, Luis Rivera, who is a major league coach this season after managing last season at Double-A New Hampshire.

Hechavarria began his professional career at high Class A Dunedin and hit .193/.217/.292 over 41 games. He made nine errors. He moved up to New Hampshire on June 28, and Rivera took him under his wing. His hitting improved to .273/.305/.360 with three home runs, though he did commit 11 errors in 61 games.

 "He's got a chance to be a very complete player," assistant general manager Tony LaCava said. "He's got a chance to not only play really good defense, but also be a good offensive guy as well."

After Hechavarria moved up to New Hampshire, Rivera helped him adjust to his new environment.

"I would always bring him into my office just so he could free the thoughts in his mind about his problems and his worries, non-baseball stuff," Rivera said. "He was very close to his family, it was really hard for him knowing he had nobody here."
Hechavarria is settling in and has a home in Plantation, Fla., where his father has joined him. He is hopeful his mother and older brother will arrive soon as well.


• Outfielder Moises Sierra was  trying out his strong throwing arm at third base during the early days of spring training. LaCava said, "It's kind of get a feel if he can do it. If the season was to start tomorrow, he's an outfielder. At some point (third base) might be a viable option for him."

• Infielder Brett Lawrie, acquired from the Brewers for righthander Shaun Marcum, has also been working at third base after playing second in the Brewers system. "The one thing that I like is that this guy has a willingness to work," major league third-base coach Brian Butterfield said. "He's a guy with obvious ability, very explosive, very strong, very athletic." Lawrie last played third as a 16-year-old with Canada's junior national team.