Hernandez Threatens to Have Surgery

Nats second baseman Carlos Baerga is hit by a pitch in the 9th. Washington has lost 10 of 14 and its lead in the NL East is a half-game over the Braves.
Nats second baseman Carlos Baerga is hit by a pitch in the 9th. Washington has lost 10 of 14 and its lead in the NL East is a half-game over the Braves. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 21, 2005

The loss to the Colorado Rockies -- a 3-2 decision in which the Washington Nationals squandered opportunity after opportunity -- would have been enough to handle last night, for it was the second in three games to lowly Colorado, the National League's worst team, and meant the first-place Nationals have lost four straight series to mediocre opponents.

But then, with the team on the precipice of losing its lead in the National League East, came a bizarre postgame interview session with ace right-hander Livan Hernandez, who claimed he is contemplating having surgery on his problematic right knee, though he believes he could pitch if he feels like he did last night.

"I'm not going to say nothing," Hernandez said. " . . . And this is the best organization. After the season, I'm going to tell you something. Don't worry about it."

The meandering, difficult-to-follow exchange between Hernandez and reporters followed a seven-inning outing in which Hernandez tied a modern major league record by hitting four batters, failed to protect a 2-0 lead by allowing a two-run homer to Rockies catcher J.D. Closser -- who came into the game hitting .207 -- and suffered consecutive losses for the first time all season, dropping his record to 12-4.

But several times afterward, Hernandez said he would likely make a decision today as to whether to have surgery on his knee, which has bothered him since he left a start against the Chicago Cubs on May 14. To this point, Hernandez has adjusted his stride and delivery to compensate for the knee, and he became an all-star in the process.

But after last night's outing, he said something or someone had made him upset enough that he would consider having surgery -- whether he needed it or not.

"The knee is okay," Hernandez said. "I not say nothing about my knee is hurt. Nothing. I don't say nothing about my knee."

He said he has not had an MRI exam on the knee since May, and that he doesn't plan to have one. A Nationals spokesman said the training staff briefly looked at the knee after Hernandez came out of the game, and planned a follow-up examination today.

Manager Frank Robinson was caught off guard by Hernandez's remarks.

"I have no answers for you," Robinson said. "I don't have a full picture of it. I have no idea what's going on."

Yet at one point, Hernandez said the chances that he would decide to have surgery were "99.9 percent." In the next breath, he said he wouldn't abandon his team, which has lost 10 of 14 and had its lead in the NL East whittled to just a half-game over the Atlanta Braves.

"Listen, it's hard for me," Hernandez said. "You think it's easy, but it's not easy. It's not easy for me to make the decision. It's not easy.


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