At the end of last year, Livan Hernandez met with Nationals Manager Davey Johnson. Hernandez listened as Johnson told him the Nationals would like to bring him back, perhaps as part-time reliever and a full-time mentor. Inside, though, Hernandez knew his tenure in Washington, which included the first pitch after baseball returned, had ended.
“I know that is not what was going to happen,” Hernandez said today. “I prepared for that. I go home and told my girlfriend: ‘I don’t think I have a chance to come back to Washington next year.’ But I know that. Everybody, a couple people said: ‘I want you back.’ But inside, I say, ‘Yeah, right. It’s not gonna happen.’ But we’re good. I’m good with Johnson, and Mike Rizzo is a great guy. He was good to me all these years. But I know I’m not going back to over there.”
Hernandez instead signed with the Astros, who placed him on the mound this afternoon at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, facing the organization he still cherishes. Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings in the Nationals’ 3-1 loss, twirling his cartoon curveball past several Nationals, including Bryce Harper, who was 5 years old when Hernandez won the 1997 World Series MVP.
Hernandez had no hard feelings, even though he knew his time in Washington had not necessarily ended on his terms. He wanted to come back. The Nationals signed Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, which overcrowded an already jammed rotation.
“Baseball is all business, and you gotta do what you gotta do and is good for you and take it a different way,” Hernandez said. “They don’t need me any more over there.”
Still, Hernandez said he could still see himself working for the organization following his playing days.
“Maybe,” Hernandez said. “You never know. I don’t know. But I got the best offer and the best job. If it’s something where I can work and do real work and give advice to a lot of young guys. I don’t know where it is. Maybe there because I pitched there a lot of years. And maybe here. I don’t know where. It’s going to be nice. This is what I want to do.”
Harper also considers playing on the Champions Tour a career option. But he’s still not done pitching. He said he wants to play three more years, if not longer.
“I want to be the Jamie Moyer of right-handers. But I don’t know. Let’s see what happens.”