(Long Island, NY) When New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya signed Livan Hernandez during the offseason, it was a low-risk, high-reward type of move to add depth to the slew of arms they were inviting to Spring Training in hopes of finding a reliable fifth starter.
Perhaps because the day the veteran righthander was inked was Valentine’s Day, that cemented the love affair that Minaya has had with him going back a few years. In March of 2003 when he was GM of the Montreal Expos, Minaya traded for Hernandez and then courted him in the winter of 2008 to bring him to Flushing.
In perhaps the unlikeliest of circumstances, the two are now reunited and Hernandez has had a resurgence of sorts. His bio states that he is 34, but his actual age has come into question ever since he arrived in the big leagues from Cuba. He probably is closer to 40 and even with that possibility, has been as effective as he has in a long time.
When he was finally announced as the fifth starter at the end of the exhibition season, Hernandez told reporters in Port St. Lucie, “What I want to let you know and let the fans know is I’m fighting. I’m fighting every time I go to the mound to win. I don’t like to lose.”
This is the same pitcher that won both the National League Championship and World Series MVP Awards in 1997 and has logged in over 200 innings pitched in nine of his 13 seasons throughout his career, the last one being 2007 for Arizona.
With Tuesday night’s complete game win over Washington, Hernandez improved to 4-1 with a 4.28 ERA on the current season and has come up big for the Mets when their supposedly strong starting rotation has been thinned by injuries.
Tim Redding, who was signed to be the fifth starter, went on the disabled list before the season commenced and just made his first start recently. Oliver Perez, who was re-signed to a three-year, $36-million deal, was atrocious before the team found a way to find a phantom injury on the quirky lefty to put him on the DL while Nelson Figueroa and Jonathan Niese have made spot starts filling in for the wounded.
All the while, Hernandez has been steady and complimented the top three starters well. Johan Santana is on a different planet than everyone else with a 7-2 mark and an ERA under two while Mike Pelfrey and John Maine both have four wins each, the same as Hernandez. Other than Santana’s 66 innings, Hernandez is next in line with 54.2. He is also the only one on the staff with a complete game.
At some point during the summer, Perez hopefully will find himself and get back to earning some of that free agent ransom he has coming to him. Even with him in the equation, Hernandez may be a vital part of the team as they go through the dog days and battle for a playoff berth. He is what they call in the business a ‘big game pitcher,’ and has a 7-3 record with a 3.97 ERA in the postseason, which includes four NLDS, three NLCS and two World Series for three different teams.
The Mets certainly hope that Hernandez adds to those numbers this October.