Saturday, March 3, 2012

Livo leaves Nats on good terms

US Presswire photo
New Astro Livan Hernandez allowed three hits, but zero runs, in two innings today.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- That all-too familiar figure -- the baggy uniform, the smooth-as-silk delivery, the gleam in his eye -- stood on the mound at Osceola County Stadium this afternoon and reached back to throw his first pitch of the season.

Livan Hernandez was throwing a baseball wearing a big-league uniform. All was right with the world.

Except something was just a bit off. That uniform Hernandez was wearing was missing a curly W. The red tint was a bit off, too. And the word across the jersey read: "Astros."

"It was really weird," manager Davey Johnson said.

Indeed, it was. After spending parts of seven of the last nine seasons pitching for this franchise, Hernandez and the Nationals parted ways over the winter. They made no formal offer to bring the 37-year-old hurler back. He never expected one to come, so when the Astros came calling with a minor-league contract offer but a likely spot in their Opening Day rotation, he decided to move on.

Perhaps it was only fitting that Hernandez's first start with his new club came against his former one. That led to some good-natured ribbing from both sides. Last night, Nationals left fielder Michael Morse sent Hernandez a text message saying: "I'm coming! I'm coming! You better be ready!"

Morse, of course, wasn't even on the Nationals' travel roster for this game and thus didn't make a surprise appearance.

"It's tough to face them, but everybody's got to do their job," Hernandez said. "We're still friends. Whatever happens on the field, we're still friends. But it's tough. It's not easy to face friends the first time. It's tough."

On the mound, Hernandez was up to his usual tricks. He allowed three hits over two innings but didn't allow anyone to score. He threw 23 of his 33 pitches for strikes, then went over to the Houston bullpen to get some more work in after a light day at the office.

Afterward, he spoke about his time in Washington and his desire to someday work for the Nationals ... but not until he retires, which he doesn't plan on doing anytime soon.

Livo is about to enter his 16th full season in the majors. How many more does he have left in him?

"I don't know. Let's see if I can go for three more, maybe more, I don't know," he said. "I want to be the Jamie Moyer of right-handers. But I don't know. Let's see what happens."

The Nationals' Opening Day starter in 2005, 2006 and 2011, Hernandez hoped to return for another season in D.C. But by late-summer, it became clear the organization wasn't going to have a guaranteed spot for him, not with several young starters emerging from their system and Stephen Strasburg returning from Tommy John surgery.

So Hernandez gave up his September starts in favor of the kids. At season's end, Johnson and others told him the club would like to have him back, but Livo knew better.

"A couple people said: 'I want you back.' But inside, I say, 'Yeah, right. It's not gonna happen,'" Hernandez said. "But we're good. I'm good with Johnson, and [GM] Mike Rizzo is a great guy. He was good to me all these years. But I knew I'm not going back over there."

His absence from camp this spring has been noticeable, especially for those young pitchers who are now taking over his spot.

"I love watching him pitch," left-hander Ross Detwiler said. "His demeanor out there is awesome. ... Just going about things day-to-day, you try to model yourself after him. He's a stand-up guy. He's been in the big leagues for a long time. Everybody wants to be that guy that's around in the big leagues."

Said Johnson: "I love the guy, for a lot of reasons. Not just because he's a heck of an athlete and a heck of a pitcher. He's been a great influence on this ballclub. Toward the end of the season, he sacrificed his starts for some of the young guys. He's just a special person."

If Hernandez makes the Astros' rotation as expected, there's a good chance he'll toe the rubber at Nationals Park sometime during the April 16-19 series between the two clubs.

If and when that happens, the assembled crowd is sure to offer a rousing ovation and welcome back to a man who has pitched for eight different organizations and worn a whole lot of different uniforms over the years but has always considered Washington home.

"It's a business," he said. "Baseball is all business, and you gotta do what you gotta do and is good for you and take it a different way. They don't need me any more over there. They signed a couple good pitchers, [Gio] Gonzalez and [Edwin] Jackson. So I made the decision and go somewhere else."


Doc said...

Livo will always be one of my favorite ballplayers, no matter for whom he plays.

I remember late in the season when Davey had him go up a lay down a pinch-hit sac bunt. He had another player's bat, some other player's pants, and some guy's batting glove. The bunt, of course, was perfect. He saved the pitcher the formality of tagging him, and reached out and touched his glove.

Go and win some games for the Astros Livo!!!

Another_Sam said...

Thanks, Mark. Good piece on a key part of the history of this club.

Anonymous said...

IMO Livo would make a better #5 than Lannan and the stats bear this out. However, he isn't a lefty and there is Detwiler and Wang two pitchers who ought to get a shot first ...

JaneB said...

Such a nice piece, Mark. I also love seeing how many people love Livo. He will always be number one in my book. It really had to be hard for him to be in the other dugout.

Mark, realistically, does Livo have what people would look for in a coach? Could he end up coaching pitchers, in some capacity, ever? Let alone with us? I want him to be happy and in baseball for the rest of his life. And mine.

JaneB said...

Doc, I remember that too! He trash-talked his way down the line, with a huge smile. And he advanced the runner, just like he was supposed to.

Jeaner said...

Love hearing that Livo wants to be here as a coach - hope it can happen. Every good thing that (we hope) happens from here on out happens with Livo as a huge part of foundation.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the Livo piece, Mark.

I, too, have fond memories of that game (I seem to recall it being on the road?). Then there was the time where he was a bit slow heading out of the box and up the line and inadvertently (wink-wink) got in the way of the opposing catcher. Love ya, Livo!

Cwj said...

Thanks for that Mark Z!

I miss Livo. For whatever reason his calm pitching style and demeanor were contagious to me as a fan watching him pitch.

Good luck in Houston Livo! Look forward to seeing you back in Washington!

sm13 said...

I was always great fun to watch Livo pitch, even if the results weren't always perfect. He had that big grin and seemed to be having the most fun of anyone in the ballpark. The shutout he threw last year was a gem.

Anonymous said...

Mark, realistically, does Livo have what people would look for in a coach? Could he end up coaching pitchers, in some capacity, ever? Let alone with us?


Livo is in too much hot water financially and legally not to get that 1 million plus a year salary for being a rotation starter. His house in Florida was foreclosed and taken over by the banks. Plus he is being investigated by the Federal authorities.

Livo couldn't afford to live on a coach's salary he has been living too high. Hopefully, he curtails his excesses soon of his own good.

NatsLady said...

Just saw where Bobby Valentine "let his team loose" and they clobbered some college kids 25-0. I'm glad the Nats were more polite to Georgetown.

Cwj said...

NatsLady- Seriously? When was that? Couldn't find any info.

Quiet night on the blog tonight. I guess we're the only ones home on a Saturday evening :-)

Cwj said...

Anyone watch "The Best 100 Right Now" on MLB network? It was spread over several shows and is a ranking of the best 100 players (hitters and pitchers).
The rankings were bizarre, but most of the right players were in it. Just not in the correct order, in my opinion.
Anyway, 4 Nats made the list. Guess which Nats made it...

Cwj said...

Wang was 50, Werth 44, Gorzelanny 42, and Zimmerman was 85!

Big Cat said... do you know all this supposed personal stuff about Livo?

Cwj said...

Just kidding :-)
4 Nats made it though I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't seen it yet.

Cwj said...

Oh what the heck. *Spoiler*
Strasburg was 98, Morse 95, Gio Gonzalez was 88 (surprised me), and of course Ryan Zimmerman was 22 (WOW)!

ChicagoNatsGirl said...

I leave for Houston on business tomorrow. I think I will accost strangers to tell them what a gem they are getting. I miss him and hope for the best for him.

Anonymous said...

Big Cat,

I'm not the original poster, but it's been in the public domain, mainly in articles on the Web, even in the last few weeks--enough of them to believe it's true.

Cwj said...

Anon(s)- Yeah I've heard the same things, but that was last year and only briefly.
If there were truly anything behind the allegations no doubt Nats-hating sites like ESPN would have been all over it last year. Didn't happen though.
Doesn't really matter anyway, I don't think.
Livo did well for the Nats and actually enjoyed it here. That's all I think Mark and everyone else is saying.

baseballswami said...

I did read about Livo being investigated for some shady dealings. Those kind of things generally take years and hardly ever amount to anything.I kind of wish we could watch Pudge play somewhere, too - just not against us. I saw the top 100 series of shows - Zim especially ranked quite a bit higher than some very big names. Nice to see the beast get a mention,too.

Sunderland said...

ChicagoNatsGirl, accost at will, that's what I say. Accost for Bixler's sake as well.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Well, it's not all rumor:

Motion filed to garnish Hernandez's wages with Astros

NatsLady said...

CWJ -- from

Huskies Red Sox (ss) NEU 0, BOS 25 Ft. Myers

Also some comments by Valentine. Apparently he wants to blank out every memory of last year.

Grandstander said...

A Boston team running up the score and acting with a total lack of class? Say it ain't so!

Cwj said...

Thanks NatsLady.
Ugh, that's awful. Way to go Red Sox >:(

Gonat said...

It was like a NatsInsider party in Section 113 in Kissimee for the Nats game. There were certainly more Nats fans there than Astros fans!

Good to meet Scooter, NatsJack, Bill and Cole plus dozens of others whose names I can't remember from the last 3 days.

NatsJack in Florida said...

It sure was great meeting everbody yesterday. Looking forward to todays game and the catered sit down with ST season ticket holders and the players and their families afterward.

Bundle up because it's going to be breezy and chilly today.

I'll be in section 111 today.

MicheleS said...

Gonat and NatsJack
I am so jealous!!!!

natsfan1a said...

Me, too! At least we get to watch today.

NatsJack in Florida said...

For those of you unfamiliar with Florida weather, we only have two seasons..... Summer and Not Summer.

Yesterday was Summer. Today is Not Summer.

Gonat said...

Michelle, I think NatsJack and Anon8 talked baseball and Nats for hours.

It was good putting names with faces. NatsJack draws a crowd. Funny that our seats were directly in front of him. We missed NatsJack in Viera and glad most of us met him yesterday.

FS said...

link for top 100.

some disagreement but otherwise a good list. Morse should be listed higher.

Anonymous8 said...

Where is Jordan Zimmermann on that list?

Sunderland said...

The tope 100 is a fun list to debate. Jeter at #52 is just absurd. The last two seasons his OPS has been .710 and .743. Prior to those seasons his career OPS was .850. He's a shadow of his former self, no chance he belongs in the top 100 today.

I'll tell you what will be fun. Looking at that list next year, with Zimmermann joining, Morse and NatGio moving up, and perhaps someone else breaking through.

First place I've seen Mike Stanton listed with his proper, and apparently preferred, first name, Giancarlo. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Motion filed to garnish Hernandez's wages with Astros

Most places they would use parsley for this. But in Houston, cilantro maybe?

Sunderland said...

How many times do you scroll down hoping to see those two special words - Newer Post

DWS said...

I generally refresh...quite often

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Wishes granted. New Post.

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