FILE - New York Mets second baseman Luis Hernandez (3)...

FILE - New York Mets second baseman Luis Hernandez (3) attempts to compete a double play as Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (26) slides into second during the top of the seventh inning. (Sept. 11, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Once viewed as a long shot to make the Mets' Opening Day roster, Luis Hernandez has seen his stock skyrocket so much that even he admits he has envisioned himself breaking camp as the second baseman.

Hernandez, who clearly has a fan in manager Terry Collins, played the final three innings of the Mets' 8-5 loss to the Red Sox Thursday at second base, marking what was his first appearance at the position thus far during Grapefruit League games.

Hernandez, who started the game at shortstop, made yet another positive impression on the manager with his grit; he stayed in the game after getting hit by a pitch on his left leg in the fifth inning and immediately helped break up a double play by sliding hard into second base.

"He knows how to play," Collins said. "He gets a pitch off his foot and he goes in and breaks up a double play . . .and he never says a word."

Hernandez, 26, sported a large ice pack on his lower left leg after the game, which he said was there to treat a sore Achilles muscle. That's where he said the pitch from John Lackey caught him in the fifth inning. Although he remained in the game, Hernandez said it started bothering him in the ninth inning.

Hernandez said he doesn't expect it to be a lingering issue, and that's the attitude that Collins likes so much.

"I saw that all season long last year," Collins said. "I went into Buffalo one time and his groin was bothering him and he never missed a beat. Played every inning of every game when I was there."

Of course, Hernandez's 2010 season is most remembered for an injury, and how he responded to it. He broke his foot when he fouled a ball off it -- and then homered later in the at-bat and hobbled around the bases.

Rehabbing his foot slowed Hernandez at the beginning of spring training, which is why he began playing games about a week ago. But Collins clearly has liked what he's seen, and Hernandez is happy for the opportunity.

"For me, it would be another chance to be in the majors for a long time, maybe for my whole career," Hernandez said. "I get excited thinking about it. I want to be there that day, the whole season. But it's still spring training and I'm going to keep playing every day, get more ABs."

As much as Collins likes Hernandez, it might take time for his bosses to come around.

Hernandez might be the best defensively among those competing for the position, but he also has a .286 on-base percentage in 120 career major-league games and a .302 on-base percentage in 844 minor-league games.

General manager Sandy Alderson described the competition for the second base job as "status quo" Wednesday. The team is expected to go through another round of cuts as early as Friday.

When Collins was asked Thursday if the impending cuts will provide some clarity in the second-base competition, the manager paused before saying, "Probably." Which could mean that Luis Castillo might already have played his last exhibition game with the Mets.

Either way, another Luis has made a strong impression on the manager.

Hernandez laughed when asked if it felt good to finally play the position he's competing for, even if it was only for three innings at the end of the game. Clearly, there's a decent chance there will be more opportunities to play second base in the near future.

"I've been thinking about Opening Day, being there," he said, "and I'm excited."