Mr. National Himself Livan Hernandez's first pitch for this franchise came on April 6, 2003 when the newly-acquired Montreal Expos' right-hander faced the same New York Mets he faces today in what could be his last start with the franchise that relocated to Washington in 2005 to become the Nationals.
The Expos acquired the then-28-year-old Hernandez from the San Francisco Giants along with bench bat/third baseman/catcher Edwards Guzman in a deal that sent RHP Jim Brower and a PTBNL (LHP Matt Blank) out west on March 24, 2003. By that time, Hernandez, who'd defected from Cuba and signed as an international free agent with Florida, had already appeared in two World Series, going (4-0) as a rookie as the Marlins beat the Giants, who'd traded him before the season, the Braves and Indians in successive series on the way to Florida's first WS championship.
After two seasons with the Expos, a 30-year-old Hernandez threw the first pitch in Washington Nationals' history against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 4, 2005. Hernandez was the Nats' Opening Day starter in '06 as well when they took on the Atlanta Braves on April 3rd, and after John Patterson in '07, Odalis Perez in '08 and John Lannan in two-straight openers in '09 and 2010, Hernandez was back on the hill in Nats Park for the season opener this past March 31st in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Livan Hernandez's start this afternoon will be his 197th for the Expos/Nationals franchise, and the 474th of his 16-year MLB career. After today, he'll transition into a coach/mentor role for the remainder of the season after which his future with the Nationals is unknown. Over seven seasons and 1311.2 IP in the organization, Hernandez is 70-71, with a 3.96 ERA, (ERA+ = 107), 27 complete games, four shutouts, 401 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 839 K's (5.76 K/9) in an Expos/Nats uniform.
He hit the 50,000 pitch mark for his career last week and was sure to throw a trademark high-60's bender on the 50,000 pitch, with which he got a groundout from Braves' pitcher Jair Jurrjens sixteen seasons after he'd thrown his first major league pitch to Braves' catcher Javy Lopez on September 24, 1996. Hernandez will throw his last pitch of the year, at some point this afternoon, then step aside as Stephen Strasburg reenters the rotation this Tuesday. If you're at the game, stand up and cheer for Livan for me when he leaves the field. Mr. National Himself deserves it.