Livan Hernandez likely returning to Nationals in a coaching role

Livan Hernandez, now with the Milwaukee Breweres, was the Nationals' Opening Day starter three times. (Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Livan Hernandez, the slop-slinging Cuban right-hander who threw the first pitch in Washington after baseball returned, is “99 percent” certain he will join the Nationals this spring training as a coach, he said today at NatsFest.

“I’m ready to ride a golf cart like Pat Corrales,” Hernandez said, referring to the former Nationals coach.

General Manager Mike Rizzo reached out to Hernandez this week over the phone to gauge his interest in working for the team in some capacity. Hernandez, who last pitched for the Nationals in 2011 and has not thrown in the majors since 2012, accepted the invitation. The sides just need to work out a deal and a position for Hernandez.

“It’s something nice,” Hernandez said. “We talk a little bit the other day on the phone. I’m very excited. Always, I want to do something in this place. I think it’s the best place, here in D.C. Just to try to do some work. I’d love to try to do that.”

Hernandez developed a fondness during his five seasons in Washington, which were separated by a span from the middle of 2006 through mid-2009. He started opening day three times. He doled out advice and kept teammates laughing. He threw an ungodly number of pitches, few of them cracking 85 miles per hour in his latter seasons, and never missed a start.

“He’s one of the few guys we can call legends of the Washington Nationals,” Rizzo said. “Again, he brings a lot to the table. First of all, he’s loved by everybody. Ownership, front office, the general manager loves him, all the players love him. And he’s got a wealth of knowledge for our pitching staff. And, I just like having him around. His attitude is infectious. His knowledge is great.”

Hernandez, 38, has serious trouble in his recent past. During the 2011 season, he was placed under investigation in a money laundering case involving a Puerto Rican drug kingpin. Hernandez has not been charged in relation to the case.

Last year, unable to hook on with a team, Hernandez pursued various business interests, watched baseball at night and played golf every day. He said he is a +2 handicap, and he still aspires to become the first Cuban to play on the Champions Tour. But he is not finished with baseball.

“I love the game,” Hernandez said. “This is the best game in the world.”

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