During the Washington Nationals‘ NatsFest yesterday, Livan Hernandez was there taking pictures with fans, signing autographs and gearing up for his first full season of retirement after not pitching all of 2013. The Nationals have invited Hernandez to Spring Training, believing his years of experience as a pitcher would work wonders for a young staff. Hernandez also said he 99 percent sure he is going to accept the team’s invitation, joking about riding around in a golf cart like former Washington coach Pat Corrales.
Hernandez pitched in the majors for 17 years, compiling a 178-177 record with a career 4.44 ERA. Known for having a rubber arm, he pitched over 3,100 innings and threw over 10,000 pitches in his career. He was never a guy to wow people with his fastball, as the lion’s share of his career was spent being a finesse guy who relied on his control and location to get batter out. Hernandez did lead the league in innings pitched three consecutive years, and also had 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more games started. Hernandez also won a World Series in 1997 with the then-Florida Marlins, and also went to the fall classic with the San Francisco Giants.
Hernandez did not make the playoffs a lot, but was relatively solid when he made it there, going 7-3 with a 3.97 ERA in four years worth of playoff baseball. However, it is pretty easy to say that Hernandez will forever be remembered as a member of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals organization, where he spent most of his career.
In seven years with the organization, Hernandez was 70-72 with a 3.98 ERA and 106 ERA+ while in Washington — his best ERA+ with any team. Hernandez also won a Silver Slugger award and was a two-time All-Star while with the Nats. Hernandez threw the first pitch in Nationals history, and had a streak of winning 12 of 16 decisions in 2005, not losing a game until September 10 of that year. Through the dark years in D.C., Hernandez always managed to shine a light for fans.
So, should the Nationals organization retire Hernandez’s no. 61 and if so, when? I think they should as Hernandez never seemed to miss a start; he was a good clubhouse presence, and not many people have bad things to say about him.
He was a savvy veteran who knew how to pitch, and also knew how to make fans chuckle on the mound with his pace. Hernandez would take his time on the mound, running to first on a hit or an out basically anywhere. He also made fans cheer with his high-50s curveball that came about as close to a modern day eephus pitch as any pitcher has thrown.
Hernandez was certainly a fan favorite, and he gave the team’s supporters a reason to cheer when there weren’t a whole lot of them. It is for this reason why the pitcher affectionately nicknamed “Livo” should be honored by an organization he did so much for, and will do even more for this spring.