Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Livo signs minor-league deal

[UPDATED AT 1:38 P.M.]

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have added another veteran starter to the mix after all, and it's a very familiar face to everyone.

Livan Hernandez has agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, a club source confirmed, and the right-hander will join the competition for three open spots in the Opening Day rotation.

Hernandez, who turned 35 on Saturday (and yes, that's his listed age, which you are free to question), will earn $900,000 if he makes the roster. There are numerous incentives included in the deal. So, will Livo make it to D.C. on April 5? You've got to believe he will, based on a number of factors.

-- His steady track record. There are few more known quantities in baseball than Livan Hernandez. He has made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 180 innings each of the last 12 seasons. He's posted double-digit wins in 10 of those seasons. Think about that for a moment. That's consistency.

-- His history with this organization. Livo was the ace of the rotation when the franchise relocated from Montreal. He started the first game in Nationals history, the first home game in Nationals history and again on Opening Day 2006. And he returned to make eight starts last fall, declaring at the end he wanted nothing more than to come back for another season.

-- The Nats need known quantities right now, especially in their rotation. There's plenty of intriguing possibilities to get excited about at some point this season -- Stephen Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, another young starter -- but at some point the Nats have to know they can send a bonafide experienced, healthy pitcher to the hill every fifth day. They've got that in John Lannan and Jason Marquis. They didn't know with 100 percent certainty they had that anywhere else. Now they do.

So, how might the Opening Day rotation shake out now? Here's one humble prediction, with the caveat here that plenty more can change over the next five-plus weeks...

1. John Lannan
2. Jason Marquis
3. Livan Hernandez
4. Craig Stammen
5. Matt Chico

Obviously, that's not set in stone by any means. I'm going to guess that Scott Olsen isn't 100 percent healthy by the end of camp. He certainly could be and ensure his place in the rotation. I'm also going to guess that Stammen and Chico distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack of young guys (Garrett Mock, J.D. Martin). Plus, each of those two has a small track record of success in the big leagues.

Will the rotation still look like that on June 1? I seriously doubt it. But between now and then, the Nats felt like they needed to do something to shore things up and give the rest of this club a chance to come out of the gates faster than they have the last four years.

Livan Hernandez can help make that happen.

20 comments:

Wigi said...

Livan has a tough road... but there are two things I like about him: He's a workhorse... you'll get your innings from him (and he can hit), and he WANTS to play for the Nats... and he wanted to when it wasn't cool.

If he makes the team, it will almost certainly not be a good thing... not because of him, but because it means that the rest of the crop of pitchers didn't meet expectations. I suppose it is also possible that he greatly exceeds expectations... wouldn't that be great... but I wouldn't hold my breath for that.

markfd said...

Even though I stated yesterday that I did not think the Nats should sign another pitcher, I am happy that if they signed anyone it was Livo and it is a minor league contract. VIVA LIVO!

natsfan1a said...

Welcome back, Livo.

natsone_va said...

Cool. I love seeing Livo wearing Nats colors. Love that guy.

Anonymous said...

I'll be shocked if he doesn't make the team. Doesn't sound like Olsen will be ready to start the season, so three spots are open. I can't believe he isn't better than the top three guys.

Bottom line - if he pitches well he could be traded in June when Wang and Strasburg (and Olsen?) are ready; if he pitches bad he can be released at the same time. Bottom line, you have to believe one of these three (Wang and Strasburg and Olsen) will noy be ready mid-year wither because of injury or more seasoning needed.

I like the move. Low risk - high reward.

Chuckles said...

Predicted scenario: Livan pitches well for a few months, the Nationals trade him to a contender and Strasburg slides into his spot.

Believeable?

jcj5y said...

I agree with others. This move is best interpreted as an indication that Olsen may not be healthy on Opening Day (which may mean that Olsen may be looking for other work before then).

Anonymous said...

The proposed rotation above isn't great, but it does two things:

1. Assures the team that if they score 5 runs, they have a good chance to win (something that didn't happen last year)

2. Gives the starters an average of 5+ innings/start and eases the load on the bullpen. Too many times last year the starter didn't make it out of the 5th and it stressed a weak 'pen. This rotation should go 5 or 6 innings fairly regularly.

natscan reduxit said...

... great news. Lovin' Livan. Expos hangin' in there, by their fingertips!

... thank God the pitching is working itself out, cuz now it's time to check in on the bats.

Go Mark; Go Expos

Go Nats!!

Anonymous said...

This is good back up if Olsen is still hurt. I am pretty confident that Stammen and Martin will be the 4th and 5th starts when the team comes north. The question is who is #3, Olsen or Livo?

Mark, how has Chico looked in the bull pen?

Nats fan in NJ said...

I agree with most of the previous comments. This says more about Olsen's health then Livo. It's a boost to the bullpen and who doesn't love Livo??

Mark - What was Livo's ERA last year for the first inning compared to 2nd inning and beyond? I seem to recall that there was a significant difference.

greg said...

meh.

i love the old livo, miss having him around.

i've very unimpressed with the new livo, with his trending upward ERA already at 5.5 last year. and he's not the 7+ inning horse that he once was. still better than league avg for IP/start, but will that continue?

it's a minor league contract, so i have no problem with the signing. but it's really more of a nostalgic signing than a productive signing for the 2010 nats to me. if he makes the rotation, it's a bad sign for the development the team's starting pitching.

the concept that he's legitimate mid-season trade bait is kinda silly, though. This is a guy who found it hard to get a minor league invitation to a team that lost 100 games the last two seasons and ranked at the bottom of most pitching categories. the chances of him having trade value in june is miniscule, at best.

peric said...

Dude, bet you saw the full court shot that Lannan posted of Martin? He did that twice that night. This is a very competitive athlete. I'll bet he ends up starting most of season finally producing quality starts. Otherwise, the HB dumps him ... ~jk~

mikeladd123 said...

You will know that the Nats are ready to be competitive when Livan cannot crack the pitching rotation. I expect him to be #3 this year. If Wang, Zimmermann and Strasburg are here in 2011, Liven will be receiving appropriate parting gifts.

greg said...

if livo cracks the rotation, worry about a third 100 loss season.

ok, that's overly harsh. but really, livan in the roation means we haven't moved on from the past couple of years. that's not a good direction to be going.

Farid in Idaho said...

Mark,
Did this contract come with an "understanding" that if he's not going to make the big-club, the team will release him before the end of spring training so he can try to find a major league job rather than reporting to Syracuse?

Anonymous said...

The mostly upbeat comments here are a welcome contrast with the cynical stuff posted on WaPo Nationals Journal. I still have the picture of opening day 2005 on my office wall and look at Livo every day. He may not be Nolan Ryan but he's welcome in my book.

alm1000 said...

I have that WaPo mini-poster in my office also, and a signed smaller picture in my bedroom.

Love Livo. Hope he makes the team and they give the kids more time in the minors.

JohnDC said...

Rizzo, unlike his predecessor in the GM's office, is all about insurance: stocking up players just in case--because "in case" happens every year. That is, players get hurt, don't meet expectations, etc. So this is a low-risk move and a smart one. And Rizzo may not be done buying some insurance.

nationals anthems said...

My attempt at a soccer-style chant / cheer for Livo...

Livan!

Livan! Livan! Leave him on!
Leave him on to pitch another one
For it's 1-2-3 down go the enemy,
Another inning gone for Livan.

When he's on the mound set the bullpen down -
Guardado'll buy him another round
For it's 1-2-3 down go the enemy,
Another Nationals win for Livan! Oy!

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