Results tagged ‘ Livan Hernandez ’

Day 8 in Viera: Position Players Join the Fray

Busiest day yet at Nationals camp as position players today
joined the fray.

 

* Have you ever wanted to work in baseball? If yes, let me
give you a bit of advice. If anyone ever offers you the job of coordinating a
Spring Training camp, say “no way” and run in the opposite direction. How tough
is that gig? I have heard the two toughest jobs in the game are being the
Rockies’ pitching coach before the advent of the baseball humidor and being a
Spring Training coordinator. That’s why today I would like to give kudos to
Bobby Henley, who doubles as our Minor League Field Coordinator. Henley is a
heck of a guy with a deep-rooted passion for the game of baseball and how it
should be played. If you or your place of business ever needs of motivator,
this is your guy. I have heard him speak to the young Instructional Leaguers
and by the time he was finished, I was ready to run through the wall and I am
just the PR guy. Henley has taken the unenviable task of plotting, planning and
orchestrating the movements from drill to drill. He has to enact the vision
that Jim Riggleman lays out for these two weeks leading into games. Henley does
it well and he is a pleasure to deal with. But remember, you do NOT want his
job.

 

* Crazy but true fact of the week… this is Livan Hernandez’s
10th Spring Camp in Viera, Fla. Yes, 10! Here’s a list of the springs that
Hernandez spent in Viera and with what teams: Marlins (1996, ’97, ’98, ’99),
Expos (2003, ’04), Nationals (2005, ’06, ’10 and ’11). Is he eligible to run
for Mayor?

 

* With an abundance of young players trying to make their
mark and earn a coveted roster spot, one player that the next generation
Nationals can draw inspiration from is Chad Gaudin. Gaudin was drafted in June
2001 by Tampa Bay and debuted with the (then) Devil Rays just 26 months later.
What’s the big deal you ask? Well, Chad was a 34
th-round draft pick out
of Crescent High in Metairie, La. So, he debuted in the Big Leagues, as an
unheralded 34
th-rounder, at the age of 20. That
is a rare, rare story.

 

* Interesting fundamental drill of the day: 3B coach Bo
Porter is the Nationals’ primary outfield instructor. He had Jayson Werth,
Nyjer Morgan, Bryce Harper and others chasing long fly balls today while
carrying a football! I missed speaking to Porter after the workout, but I think
the drill’s objective is to keep an outfielder’s core as motionless as possible
while pursuing those long fly balls. Porter’s a fantastic instructor and a
great addition to Jim Riggleman’s staff. He definitely knows football too. He
was a two-sport (baseball, football) athlete at the University of Iowa, where
he was Hayden Fry’s starting cornerback in the 1992 Rose Bowl.

 

* Fans on hand today also spied the first live batting
practice of the spring. Yes, pitchers actually threw to hitters. Most hitters
do a bunch of watching, in fact, Jayson Werth indicated he may not have swung
at all. Conversely, Matt Stairs swung and went deep during his live BP.

 

Storen_CWL_022211.jpg

* Book Club: Stanford
alum Drew Storen is currently reading “
Scorecasting,” which is written by University of Chicago financial economist Tobias Moskowitz
and Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim. Together, they attempt to
unearth “the hidden forces that shape how basketball, baseball, football, and
hockey games are played, won and lost.” Sounds like an intriguing read.

 

* Let’s close with our “4 Questions” segment. Today’s victim
was pitcher Tom Gorzelanny:

 

Favorite Team/Player
as a Youth?:

White Sox, Ken Griffey Jr. (Huh? He played for the Cubs last year, wonder how
that little nugget was received in the Windy City
)

Favorite Game Show of all-time?: Wheel of Fortune (who doesn’t love
Vanna?
)

Favorite Superhero?: Batman (interesting answer from a pitcher, don’t you think?)

Most apt to watch CNN, Food Network or Travel Channel (and list favorite
show)?:

None of the above. I am much more likely to be checking The History Channel and
looking for a show on the government (CIA, Secret Service, etc.) or war
history.

 

* Again, I’d like to acknowledge the multiple contributions
of my PR confidants, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. And as a reminder, we are
anxiously awaiting the return of Mark Lerner to the blogging airwaves. Look for
Mark to reemerge on Mon., Feb. 28.

 

We’ll be back tomorrow with more. Cannot wait.

Day 5 in Viera: Defensive Versatility a Key in 2011

Happy
weekend to everyone, well except to the Nationals’ players and coaches. As we
all know, weekends don’t exist in baseball, so our pitchers and catchers were
back at it this morning under beautiful sunny skies in Viera. The high is
supposed to be 74 today. Very little wind, which is unusual for this area. I
know I am a bit redundant with my weather comments, but I hope everyone
understands that this has been the best February weather I have ever
experienced down here. It has been perfect. I am also hoping that this entices
all our fans from in/around DC to cut their winters short and visit us in the
Grapefruit League for a week or so. You won’t regret it.

Once
again, my name is John Dever and I am the PR Director for your Nationals. I
have a pair of fine gentlemen, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, that I work closely
with and we are sharing some of our top Nationals-centric observations with you
in hopes of revving up your engines for the upcoming season. On Mon., Feb. 28,
we will pass the blogging baton to Mark Lerner, who will share his unique
thoughts about the Nationals’ 2011 Grapefruit League efforts.

Here
are some of our Saturday-morning observations:

*
New arrivals today included Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Chris Marrero. Hairston is
going to be interesting to watch. This guy can play everywhere at anytime. In
the midst of a pennant race, Hairston served as the Padres’ regular shortstop
for much of the second half of 2010 as Everth Cabrera dealt with injuries. From
what I have gathered, and what O’s fans might recollect, Hairston’s best
position is second base. But don’t be shocked to see him playing a bit of
center field too. Hairston is going to be a very valuable player for Jim
Riggleman. I think this was one of Mike Rizzo’s most underrated signings of the
offseason.

*
Speaking of shortstop, it appears like Jim Riggleman might be using the
3-shortstop defensive alignment quite a bit this summer. What? Well, think
about it. First of all, Ian Desmond is a young shortstop. And a darn good one.
Then you have his pivoting partner, Danny Espinosa, the latest in a long line
of Long Beach State shortstops (Crosby, Tulowitzki, Longoria). Yes, he’ll be
playing second base this season in Washington, but he had only played shortstop
as a pro until being summoned to Syracuse last summer. And then we have this
guy named Ryan Zimmerman. You may have heard of him. Zimmerman played quite a
bit of shortstop at UVA before being drafted fourth overall in 2005. The
established presence of Mark Reynolds at UVA forced Zimmerman, then a freshman
(or a First Year as they like to say in Charlottesville), to shift over. And
let’s remember, Zimmerman has played a part in a handful of 4-5-3 or 6-5-3 GDPs
during his Big League career. He knows his way around the second-base bag. So,
keep Adam LaRoche and the 3-shortstop defense in the back of your minds this
summer at Nationals Park.

*
You might be surprised as to who the biggest NBA fan is among Nationals. How
long would it take you to guess Livan Hernandez? True story. Hernandez watches
games on ESPN, TBS and TNT all the time. This guy knows what is happening in
the Association. He plans to get up to an Orlando Magic game in the coming
weeks. But tonight, Hernandez is jacked about the dunk contest. He is hardly
the only one excited to see Blake Griffin tonight, but let’s remember that
JaVale McGee will represent the Wizards too. Here’s hoping McGee can do some
damage and represent The District.

*
Pudge Rodriguez is suddenly very into MLB’s First-Year Player Draft, and it has
nothing to do with the impending arrival of Bryce Harper to camp. Rather, Pudge
is interested to see how his son Ivan Dereck fares, as he is in his
draft-eligible season. Ivan Dereck is a center fielder and he is a wiry-strong
6-foot-2. He also closes games for Monsignor Pace (FL) High in Miami
Gardens (same HS from which Chris Marrero was drafted). Pudge says Ivan Dereck
can throw 90-92 mph, but his bat is too good to waste, so he sees him as a
center fielder. Ivan Dereck will be one to watch as we get into early June.

*
Book Club Note of the Day: DC-resident Josh Wilkie, the pride of George
Washington University, really enjoyed reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett,
during the offseason. You can read more about The Help here.
Josh recently started reading Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (no relation to
the former Nationals lefthander). Here is Stanton’s website.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow afternoon as we watch the final position
players trickle in. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Day 4 in Viera: Adam LaRoche Arrives

Hello everyone. We were glad to hear that things warmed up in/around DC today, someone said it got above 60 degrees. Well, it hit 83 today at the complex. Sunblock is mandatory, so if you come visit, please don’t forget your SPF 50.

My name is John Dever and I am your guest blogger for the next week or so. I am the PR Director for the Nationals and I will be drawing on the eyes and ears of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. Mike and Bill have been around for many years and have forged hundreds of relationships and watched thousands of ballgames. Collectively, the three of us are holding down the fort for Mark Lerner, who will inherit this blog on Monday, February 28. Mark is looking forward to resuming the blog experience he began during the 2010 Winter Meetings.

Here are some of our observations from today …

*Every morning, 31-32 pitchers begin their workout with stretching and a game of simple catch. One of the pairings the last two days has been Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya. Obviously most know that both are from Cuba, and some of our most ardent fans may have read that Maya was a bat boy on Hernandez’s Cuban Industrial League team back in the early 90’s. So they know each other well. What caught my eye today was that they begin their throwing sessions with one another by throwing a “regulation” softball for the first 10-15 tosses. Their theory is that this exercise helps them gain better command of the baseball when they do switch over. Knowing Hernandez’s well-established pinpoint control, it is hard to argue with the notion.

*Today we saw Maya, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Chad Gaudin and Sean Burnett, among others, debut with their bullpen sessions. Let’s just say, I cannot wait to see Maya in games next month.


Adam LaRoche introduced at Nats Park.JPG*Big arrival today among position players as Adam LaRoche rolled in with his nine-year-old son, Drake. LaRoche jumped right into the cage with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Nyjer Morgan. LaRoche looked refreshed and ready to go. Meanwhile, Drake will likely be hosting his own talk show within two to three years. He had a lot of people laughing all afternoon around the complex. He has quite the personality.

*When contemplating the future of Wilson Ramos, remember who he has been learning under. Pudge Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. Wilson told Mike Gazda today that he has had and continues to have a strong relationship with Mauer, and that his interaction with Pudge late last season was fantastic. Both players shared their experiences and knowledge freely and their encouragement toward Ramos did not go unnoticed. Who wants to bet that someday down the line Ramos will have a similar relationship with a young up-and-coming catcher? What comes around will undoubtedly go around.

*Little known fact: Sean Burnett is actually right-handed. Yes. That is no misprint. Sean does EVERYTHING (eat, drive, write) right-handed except pitch, bat and golf. Per Burnett, his theory is that he mimicked his left-handed father, Rich Burnett, his entire childhood. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion was that Sean says he can’t throw a football left-handed at all. He says he likely could not throw a football 10 feet. But he can hurl a football pretty well from the right side in case you were wondering.

*Book Club Note of the Day: Ross Detwiler is currently reading “When Men Win Glory,” the Pat Tillman story written by Jon Krakauer. Maybe we’ll have him file a book report for us next week.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more on the eve of the report date for position players.

Day 3 in Viera: That Familiar Pop of Ball Meeting Glove

Greetings again. OK, weather check. It was a bit cloudy for most of the morning today, but temps reached 71. The wind was light and pleasant. Not perfect, but in the realm of really comfortable. The sun came out in earnest in the afternoon. I am in the midst of my eighth Spring Training in Viera and this is the best weather we’ve had right from the get-go. Usually things get very nice in March, but this year’s sunny skies seem to have come a bit early. No one is complaining.

So who is this guy who’s in his eighth Spring Training in Viera? My name is John Dever and I’m the PR Director for the Nationals baseball operation. With the help of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, I’m stringing together some ideas, sights/sounds, and vignettes from the Nationals 2011 Spring Training camp. As I’ve said before, we are merely batting leadoff on this blog for another few days before Mark Lerner jumps into the captain’s seat to share his own views on what’s happening with the Nationals during their stay in Camp Riggleman.  

* Today we saw baseball players actually playing baseball in uniform as part of the first workout for pitchers and catchers. We heard balls popping into new leather gloves. A nice sound no doubt, one trumped only by the distinctive bat-on-rawhide vocals we will begin to hear next week. But we are officially underway.

* Before the workout Jim Riggleman gathered everyone together to remind the pitchers that “no one is making the ballclub today.” In essence, Skipper was telling them not to risk injury by coming out of the chute too hard and too fast. That does no one any good. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an injury-free season for all.  

* 15 pitchers from Group A threw their first bullpens of the Spring. We saw, among others, Livan Hernandez, Chien-Ming Wang, Collin Balester (who threw gas BTW!), Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard take the hill.


Strasburg_CurlyWLive2011ST3.jpg
* It is true, Stephen Strasburg played catch today with Head Athletic Trainer Lee Kuntz. In all, Strasburg made 70 throws with Kuntz from 30-45 feet. It was a natural motion, one that I’m sure you can see tonight on the local TV sportscasts. BTW, look for one-on-one interviews with Strasburg tonight on WUSA (Brett Haber) and Comcast Sports Net (Kelli Johnson). On a side note, Stephen won a lucrative $100 bet today from his pitching coach, Steve McCatty. The bet hinged on Strasburg’s assertion that he would have “six-pack abs” by the first day of Spring Training. Word from the clubhouse is that McCatty is eating Ramen Noodles tonight because his meal money is now in Strasburg’s pocket!

* Early Bird Gets the Worm Award to RHP Cole Kimball, who showed up at Space Coast Stadium this morning for his first day in Big League camp at 5:25 a.m. He beat everyone to the park, including Special Assistant Pat Corrales, who is a bit ticked off he wasn’t first. Cole is a workout warrior who throws very hard. Very excited to see him perform in games in a few weeks.

* Truly incredible performance this morning from RHP Yunesky Maya, who threw his body around like a rag doll while fielding comebackers off the bat of Rick Schu. Granted, this drill entails the use of padded baseballs, but Maya made some truly dazzling stops. Must be something about Cuban pitchers because in my mind, countryman Livan Hernandez is the best fielding pitcher I have ever witnessed.


ClippardCurlyWLive2011ST3.jpg
* Book Club Note of the Day:  Tyler Clippard spent the dying weeks of his offseason reading Men’s Health Muscle Chow by Gregg Avedon. 150 meals to feed your muscles and fuel your workouts. I wonder how many of those 150 meals contain “Peaches?” In true bachelor fashion, Tyler told us that he prepared none of those meals himself, but rather had a personal chef to fix the meals for him.

That’s it for now – ’til we meet tomorrow, when we chronicle Yunesky Maya’s first bullpen session in Viera, and more.

Day 2 in Viera: Pitchers Take Center Stage

Hi again. I hate to rub it in—as I heard that it’s cold again in DC—but the temperature reached 72 here in Viera today. In fact, the highs for the next four days are slated to be 73 (Thu.), 74 (Fri.), 73 (Sat.) and 73 (Sun.). Now that’s baseball weather! To be more specific, that’s San Diego baseball weather.

Spring Training really is a unique time. No other sport can even touch it. I hope everyone reading this blog can someday experience firsthand the warmth, rhythm and optimism that is nearly palpable at a big league Spring Training camp. Let’s just say you have an open invitation to joins us anytime here in Viera!

I’m John Dever, the PR Director for the Nationals baseball operation, and I will be posting some miscellaneous observations (along with those of my trusty sidekicks, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna) over the next week or so that will hopefully appeal to all of you Nats fans out there. But really, the three of us are just saving Mark Lerner’s spot. Mark will be blogging about his Spring Training experiences starting next week. He began blogging during the ’10 Winter Meetings and he is eager to restart his blogging engines.

So here’s a run-down of today’s happenings:

*Saw Stephen Strasburg today. He looked … great. His core is noticeably stronger. And as good as he looked physically, his spirits appeared higher. While I’m sure he is bummed he won’t be throwing his first bullpen this week, I have a feeling he long ago accepted his fate and began channeling his energies toward a successful return. The media will meet with Stephen on Thursday, so I’m sure you will be reading more on his outlook directly from him by this time on Thursday. But here’s the bottom line: as anxious as we all are for the return of Stephen Strasburg “the pitcher,” it was fantastic to see Stephen Strasburg “the person” today.


102572427.jpg*Please note that no matter what you read, Jim Riggleman yesterday did not name Livan Hernandez our Opening Day starter. But Riggs did indicate that Livan is the leading candidate, and that he earned that dubbing via his performance last season (10-12, 3.66 ERA, 22 quality starts in 33 starting assignments). This would not be Livan’s first Opening Day nod. He’s earned that honor seven times during his career. Not many pitchers can say they have toed the rubber seven times on Opening Day.

*Newest arrival among position players: Roger Bernadina (who flew in on the Amsterdam-Viera express). Roger spent a good chunk of his offseason in The Netherlands, but as he told me, he gets plenty of work in there, as there is more baseball played there than any other European country. He works out with other pros there at an indoor facility, so that might give you an indication of The Netherland’s place in the baseball universe.

*Chien-Ming Wang is back and, like Strasburg, his spirits are high after spending the majority of his offseason working out and strengthening his right shoulder in Phoenix. There will be no limitations placed on Wang as tomorrow we embark on the first formal workout of the spring.

*Hair update: Strasburg’s beard that you may have spied in the offseason is gone. He’s back to the familiar chin patch.

*Local Nationals coverage reminder: Jordan Zimmermann will be on “Overtime” with Bill Rohland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on 106.7 fm The Fan.

30 Players in 30 Days: Livan Hernandez


Livan Hernandez vs. Reds.jpgLivan Hernández might have been the Nationals most valuable pitcher in 2010 and he wasn’t even on the team when Spring Training began. For the second straight year, Hernández was without a Major League contract as Spring Training drew near. With each passing day, he patiently waited for a call from the Nationals at his home in Miami–he had a few offers from other teams but he wanted to play for the Nationals. He waited, waited a little longer and waited some more until he finally got the call.

General Manager Mike Rizzo thought he needed some insurance in the starting rotation–he was right–and signed him to a Minor League contract. A refocused Hernández entered camp in shape, determined to win one of the three openings in the starting rotation. He did that and more. He won’t need to wait around this season because the Nats made sure to lock him up for another year.

He is a renaissance man that has helped reshape himself in the offseason with a rigorous conditioning program that includes playing racquetball–he won’t win a fitness contest but he will never miss a start. And it is tough to miss him pitch. He stands on the mound with a bright big smile, chomping his gum just as effortlessly as he pitches, never blowing a bubble but always showing you he has it in his mouth like a kid.

“When I go on the mound, I try to be relaxed and enjoy the game,” Hernández said. “Because if I take it too seriously, too intense, it’s not me. I try to play the game the way I am in life.”

In his first six starts he was nearly perfect. He went 4-1 with a microscopic 1.04 ERA (43.1 IP/ 5 ER). He came back to earth as the season progressed but he still finished with a respectable 10-12 record and a 3.66 ERA (211.2 IP/ 86 ER). He pitched at least six innings in 26 of his 33 starts while leading the team in innings, quality starts (22), complete games (2) and starts. Livo knows what he can and can’t do: he can’t survive in the top half of the strike zone and he can’t overpower batters but he can locate his pitches and outthink hitters with a mid-80’s fastball and a curveball that crawls and falls to the plate.

“Pitching is like real estate: location, location, location,” Hernández said. “You buy the real estate in the best location because you’ll get something good. Same with pitching, you want to locate the ball in the perfect spot.”

Endurance might not be the first word that comes to mind when you look at Livo’s far from built body–don’t expect him to run a marathon or even a few miles–but you can count on him to be on the mound every fifth day. He has never missed a start in his career and he has never been on the disabled list.

I don’t know how I’m going to feel one day when I miss one start,” Hernández said. “Maybe I will go crazy. Maybe I will have to go to the hospital or something.”

Check this out: among active pitchers, he is fifth in wins (166), third in games started (445), second in complete games (49) and fourth in innings pitched (2,946.1). He has a 4.39 career ERA and has pitched at least 180.0 innings the last 13 seasons.


Livan H golf 1.jpgHe is an avid golfer and will let you know golf is a hard game. He will then show you how easy he can make it look. His swing is effortless. He plays golf the same way he pitches: cool, calm and graceful. He makes it look so easy. Pick a spot on the driving range and he will put it there.

 “If I don’t play golf for two weeks,” Hernández said, “I don’t think I’m going to be the same person.”

But Livo is always Livo, golfing or not. He is the same person win or lose, birdie or bogey, strikeout or home run. The smile is as constant as Livo toeing the rubber every fifth day.

Stopping the six-game Skid

With pregame warm-ups in the books–Coach leads the pitchers through their routine first, then the position players–we head upstairs for dinner in the press box. Tonight our plate consists of lasagna, canned veggies, grilled redskin potatoes and mini corndogs. Hey, we’d be doing our loyal readers a disservice if we didn’t try a little of everything, and really, how can you pass up corndogs anyway!? Lastly, the Braves lemonade and sweet tea combine for an amazing Arnold Palmer. How cool would it be to have a drink named after you?

 

The early going is highlighted by Adam Dunn’s mammoth two-run homer in the top of the second. Between innings, we make our way back to the clubhouse to meet up with the Coordinator of Advanced Scouting and Video, Erick Dalton. This guy, with the help of Michael Mazur, compiles countless hours of video on upcoming Nationals opponents. He then combines it with written scouting reports to detail everything from pitcher tendencies to hitter’s strengths and weaknesses, and every trend imaginable in between. With the Nationals leading 3-0, we take a seat next to Erick as he runs through his game day routine, complete with three to four computer monitors, diagrammed printouts and a handful of other resources to help him ensure the Nats are as prepared as possible for their upcoming opponents. He’s already compiled the scouting reports for the Nats next series against the Phillies–he says it’s all about staying at least one series ahead.

 

Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein comes back to the clubhouse between innings to review some tape of recent at-bats to see what’s been effective thus far for Atlanta’s starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Whatever it was Erick had queued up for Rick, he was able to immediately reap the benefits for the Nationals hitters, as Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez took Jurrjens deep in the top of the fourth inning, extending the lead to 4-0. Just how critical was the intel that Erick provided? Consider:

 

Ramon Ortiz was the last Nats pitcher to hit a home run and that was on September 4, 2006 at RFK Stadium. In the time between the homers by Ortiz (9/4/06) and Hernandez (9/14/10): 47 different MLB pitchers homered a total of 95 times, Ivan Rodriguez gunned down 82 would be basestealers while wearing five different uniforms, Joey Chestnut consumed a combined 247 hot dogs en route to winning four straight Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests, and let’s not forget Pluto lost its “planet” classification in the Solar System.

 

The Nationals would tack on two more insurance runs courtesy of a Roger Bernadina RBI single and an Ian Desmond solo HR–let’s add an assist from Erick and Coach Eckstein for good measure–while Livo went eight strong innings and the good guys prevailed, 6-0, evening the series at a game apiece.

 

Spirits were certainly higher in the post-game clubhouse and on the bus ride back to the hotel. Let’s hope we keep the momentum going tomorrow as we wrap up the series and this roadtrip blog. We’ll be visiting with MASN broadcasters Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight, and maybe a few other surprises as well. Stay tuned…

Livan looks to close the series with a win

It is an early start for the rubber game of the Mets vs. Nats series at Nats Park and with a win the Nats will move to 3-0-2 in series play against the Mets and 9-6 overall, guaranteeing at least a tie in the season series. For what it is worth–probably nothing–the Nats are 10-10 in rubber games in 2010, including a 6-2 mark in DC but they have dropped 9 of their last 12 rubber games after starting the year 7-1.

 

The crafty, curveball crawling, 85 mph fastball hurling Livan Hernandez toes the rubber for the Nats. Yeah, it will be back-to-back games that a Cuban-native has started a game for the Nats. And now you are trying to remember the last time that happened. Well, the last time two Cuban-born teammates got the starting nod in consecutive games was Sept. 17-18, 2005, when Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez (loss) and Jose Contreras (win) toed the rubber for the White Sox against the Twins at the Metrodome.

 

Hernandez has struggled in his last three starts going 1-2 with a 12.00 ERA (20 ER/ 15 IP) with a .394 BAA but with a win today he would move to 10-10 with an ERA possibly under 4.00 on the season and the Nats would move to  15-14 when he starts. Not bad for a pitcher who the Nats signed to a Minor League contract during Spring Training.

 

Yesterday, Yunesky Maya and Dillon Gee squared off as they made their Major League debuts. Today, Hernandez and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey square off in a match-up of two surprising seasons and feel-good stories–both pitchers were signed as Minor League free agents in the offseason. Hernandez has been so instrumental in the Nats rotation–he hasn’t missed a start–the Nats signed him to a one year contract, ensuring he won’t need to wait around for a contract for the fourth straight season.

 

Dickey has traveled back and forth between the Minors and Majors his entire career, but after he was called-up on May 19 this season, he hasn’t looked back. He is 9-6 with a 2.91 ERA.  He tied a career high in wins and set a career high in innings pitched (139.1), games started (21) and quality starts (15).

 

Mets (68-71):

1.    Angel Pagan – RF

2.    Luis Hernandez – 2B

3.    Carlos Beltran – CF

4.    Ike Davis – 1B

5.    David Wright – 3B

6.    Chris Carter – LF

7.    Josh Thole – C

8.    Ruben Tejada – SS

9.    R.A. Dickey – SP (9-6, 2.91 ERA)

*Yesterday, Dillon Gee took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his Major League debut. He is just the third pitcher over the last five seasons to take a no-hitter into the sixth in his first outing in the Big Leagues. Gee fired 7.0 innings of one run, two-hit ball to earn the win.

Nationals (60-79):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Roger Bernadina – LF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Danny Espinosa – 2B

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (9-10, 3.81 ERA)

UPDATE: Rodriguez has been scratched, Espinosa will hit 7th, Ramos will hit 8th and play catcher.

Nats-Cubs game 1

As everybody waits for the official word on Stephen Strasburg’s injury or condition, the Nats’ season continues tonight against the Cubs.

The Nats open a seven game homestand against a deflated and defeated Cubs team that is playing their first game with Interim Manager Mike Quade at the helm. Their former Manager Lou Piniella abruptly retired yesterday–six weeks earlier than expected to take care of his ailing mother. The Nationals had planned on presenting a plaque to Piniella commemorating his great career. The plaque featured a young Piniella in a Curly “W” cap during his season with the Peninsula Senators in 1963, the Single-A affiliate of the Washington Senators at the time.


Lou Piniella.jpgThe road hasn’t been a friendly place this season for the Nats. They went 2-4 on this most-recent six-game road trip to lower their record to 22-44 away from the friendly confines on Nationals Park. The Nats bats were kept at bay and they scored two runs or less in four of the six contests. It didn’t help that the Nats batted .143 (5-for-35) with RISP over the weekend against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It also didn’t help that the Nats were blanked twice thanks largely to the efforts of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt.

It’s not all bad. The Nats are back at home where they are 31-27 and they are 13-12 in games started by Livan Hernandez. Not to mention, they are facing a Cubs team that ESPN’s Senior National Columnist Gene Wojciechowski called “borderline unwatchable.”

“The Cubs are borderline unwatchable and completely irrelevant. They were so fired up for Sunday’s game–Lou Piniella’s last as Cubs manager–that they lost only 16-5. They haven’t quit; they just can’t do any better.” -Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN

Cubs (51-74):

1.    Blake DeWitt – 2B

2.    Starlin Castro – SS

3.    Marlon Byrd – CF

4.    Aramis Ramirez – 3B

5.    Xavier Nady – 1B

6.    Tyler Colvin – RF

7.    Alfonso Soriano – LF

8.    Geovany Soto – C

9.    Casey Coleman – SP (0-1, 7.82 ERA)

 

Nationals (53-71):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Roger Bernadina – LF

6.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

7.      Willie Harris – RF

8.      Alberto Gonzalez – SS

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (8-8, 3.06 ERA)

Livo has emerged as the unlikely star of the staff


Livan Hernandez Nats-Arizona.jpgBack in April, Livan Hernández stood on the mound with a bright big smile, chomping his gum just as effortlessly as he was pitching. He never blew a bubble but he constantly made it clear that he had it in his mouth like a kid showing his parents. Troy Tulowitzki stood at the plate with a 1-2 count. It might as well have been school because he was about to learn firsthand how Einstein’s theory of relativity works. He just saw two 85 mph fastballs–yes, that’s 85 mph–and an 81 mph slider.

Livo reached into his bag of tricks for the fourth pitch and threw a slow looping curveball, a pitch as devastating as his smile is infectious. Tulo couldn’t lay off of it. He swung so far in front of the ball he could have put his bat back on his shoulder and swung again.

All Tulo could do was laugh as he walked backed to the dugout. 85 mph never seemed so fast and 66 mph never seemed so slow. Livan just smiled ear to ear, looked at Tulo and slowly walked to the dugout chomping him gum as if to say, “How could you ever doubt me?”

That has been the epitome of Livo the entire 2010 season–the gum-chomping, curveball crawling hurler has been the Nationals most consistent pitcher this season by just being his normal, laidback self with a fastball that jogs to the plate at 84 mph and a curveball that walks. In his 23 starts, Livo has allowed three earned runs or less in 18 of them. In those 18 games he is 8-4 with a 1.85 ERA (121.2 IP/ 25 ER) with a .232 BAA. Not a bad stat line for a pitcher who wasn’t even on the roster when Spring Training started.

“I try to stay on the mound the right way, the way I am in life,” Hernandez said. “Because I like to be happy and laughing and my family appreciates that. I’m a very serious guy and take everything seriously, but at the same time, I like to enjoy baseball. When I go on the mound, I try to be relaxed and enjoy the game.  Because if I take it too seriously, too intense, it’s not me. I try to play the game the way I am in life.”

He hasn’t missed a start this season and he leads the Nats in ERA (3.03), innings pitched (151.1), strikeouts (80) and wins (tied with Tyler Clippard with 8).

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel one day when I miss one start,” Hernandez said. “Maybe I will go crazy. Maybe I will have to go to the hospital or something.”

Livo takes the mound tonight trying to stop the Nats four game skid. There is a good chance he will, if not, you can still expect to see him smile.

Marlins (56-56):

1.    Hanley Ramirez – SS

2.    Logan Morrison – LF

3.    Gaby Sanchez – 1B

4.    Dan Uggla – 2B

5.    Cody Ross – CF

6.    Mike Stanton – RF

7.    Donnie Murphy – 3B

8.    Brett Hayes – C

9.    Ricky Nolasco – SP (12-8, 4.57 ERA)

 

Nationals (49-65):

1.      Roger Bernadina – CF

2.      Ian Desmond – SS

3.      Adam Dunn – 1B

4.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

5.      Michael Morse – RF

6.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

7.      Ivan Rodriguez – C

8.      Willie Harris – LF

9.      Livan Hernandez – SP (8-7, 3.03 ERA)

 

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