In one of the more emotional end of the season scenes at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, Washington Post writer Chico Harlan captured the departure of longtime National and Expo Livan Hernandez, (who'd returned to the nation's capital after being released by the New York Mets to make eight starts at the end of last season), in an article entitled, "Nationals Prepare for Offseason Makeover", where Mr. Harlan described seeing the then 34-year-old right-hander as he left for the winter following a game in Atlanta, and, "...walked through the middle of the Turner Field visitors' clubhouse and raised his arms, as if making a public declaration,"
"'All people, I love you guys," he said. "I hope to see you next year."
"If not," he continued, after a pause, "you know where to find me."
General Manager Mike Rizzo overheard the plea, walked over to Hernández, and said they'd be talking soon.
During December's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, DC GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged that Hernandez remained one option among many on the free agent market in an article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson entitled, "Nats searching for arms, backup infielder", where Mr. Rizzo was quoted stating, "'We still have some interest in Livan...He is a guy that we have always liked. He is on the list of several pitchers we still have interest in.'" But over two months later, Mr. Ladson spoke to Hernandez again for an article entitled, "Livan interested in returning to Nats", in which a frustrated Hernandez complained that the DC GM hadn't returned his calls or responded since that initial contact at the Winter Meetings:
"'When I call people, I would like them to respond to my phone calls and talk to me. Sometimes, it's very disappointing and frustrating...I want to show that I can help the team win. It's better now by signing Ivan and a couple of more guys."
Then last week, faced with the revelations of Ross Detwiler's hip injury, unsure about whether or not Scott Olsen would be ready for the season, and after the Nationals reportedly made offers to free agent pitchers Braden Looper and Chan Ho Park, DC GM Mike Rizzo finally made the call to Mr. National Himself, the soft-tossing right-hander who pitched the first game in the franchise's history. Rizzo explained the decision to the Washington Post's Chico Harlan, as quoted in an article entitled, "Livan Hernandez makes his return to the Nationals":
"Livo brings us an experienced guy that we know can eat up innings," Rizzo said. "You know exactly what you're getting with this acquisition. He's a good inventory guy for us. He's a veteran guy. We know what type of pitcher he's going to be. We know him in the clubhouse. So we're really comfortable with that, and he gives us some security."
MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling quoted the DC GM today, however, saying that Livan's not guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation though he does acknowledge, as Mr. Goessling writes, that, "...minor league options are always a factor, and almost every starter candidate has at least one option year left. Based on that alone, it seems likely Hernandez will start the year in the rotation." Hernandez, for his part, after having thrown his first bullpen with Washington told the MASNSports' reporter the same thing he's been saying all winter:
"Always, I wanted to come back," Hernandez said. "I waited and waited, and so the time has come, and I signed, and that's it. I'm here now."
• ?'s For The DC Faithful...
• Is Rizzo playing mind games to motivate Livan when he says he's not guaranteed a spot? Was he trying to motivate the veteran starter, or give him something to prove by saving him as a fallback option all winter?
• Do you expect Livan Hernandez to be in the starting rotation when the season begins?
• Did you want to see Livan Hernandez return or did you think it was time to move on?
• What does the move tell you about the Nationals' faith in their younger pitchers?
• Will anyone step up to knock Livan Hernandez or Miguel Batista out of the rotation?
• Livan Hernandez 2010 Projections:
Bill James - 31 GS, 186.0 IP, (8-13), 4.98 ERA, 4.65 FIP, .294 BAA, 1.50 WHIP, .316 BABIP, 61 BB (2.95 BB/9), 103 K's (4.98 K/9).
CHONE - 30 GS, 180.0 IP, (8-12), 5.05 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, .301 BAA, .316 BABIP, 62 BB (3.10 BB/9), 83 K's (4.15 K/9).
Marcel - 170.0 IP, (9-11), 5.29 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 1.58 WHIP, .303 BAA, .325 BABIP, 60 BB (3.18 BB/9), 91 K's (4.82 K/9).