The Washington Times - April 23, 2011, 12:25PM

PITTSBURGH — Ask any member of the Nationals about Livan Hernandez and you’re almost guaranteed to get a response that involves the phrase, ‘Livo is Livo, we know what we’re going to get from him.’

By that they mean, no matter what, every fifth day Hernandez will take the ball and most likely offer at least six innings of work and generally allow about three earned runs or less.

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There are a lot of reasons why Hernandez, at age 36, is still pitching in the major leagues and leading a starting rotation. First of all, he’s still incredibly effective (his 10 wins and 3.66 ERA in 2010 evidence of that). Obviously, he’s become a finesse pitcher but you’d be hard pressed to find a finesse pitcher who has a better plan or more precision and control over each one of his pitches as Hernandez. 

But one of the biggest reasons Hernandez is still doing what he’s doing is his incredible durability. 

Hernandez will make his 450th consecutive start tonight when the Nationals and Pirates finally open their three-game series at PNC Park, one day after the opener was postponed by rain.

That’s not 450th career start, that’s 450th straight start without ever missing a turn in the rotation. 

“That’s unbelievable,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “Guys get somewhere around 30 or 32 a year so 10 years would be 320… and you’re still 130 short of 450. It’s amazing. The guy has never missed a start.

“That kind of rolls off your tongue, in one ear, out the other, but if you really think about that, who else has done that?”

In parts of 16 seasons in the major leagues, Hernandez has never once been on the disabled list and only once in his career has he ever pitched in relief: his major league debut in 1996 when he threw three scoreless innings and struck out two. Each and every one of Hernandez’s 448 other appearances have come in the role of the starting pitcher.

The only time since that relief appearance that Hernandez hasn’t made at least 30 starts in a season was his rookie year in Florida when he started 17 games but, to be fair, he wasn’t called up to the big leagues until June 15. 

For three straight years as a member of the Expos (2003, 2004) and then the Nationals (2005), Hernandez led the major leagues in innings pitched with 233 1/3, 255 and 246 1/3, respectively. In his career, he’s thrown over 200 innings in a season 10 different times, including 2010 with Washington.

Oddly enough, the man leading the team he’ll be making the milestone start against, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, managed Hernandez during the second half of the 2008 season in Colorado which was easily the worst eight-game stretch of Hernandez’s career when he went 3-3 with an 8.03 ERA in 40 1/3 innings.

But despite those numbers, Hurdle was still impressed by Hernandez.

“He’s like the big guy at the company picnic who drinks all the beer and wins all the trophies,” Hurdle said Friday. “There’s no doubt he’s a smart guy, No. 1. He’s a survivor, No. 2.”

“He’s got a slow heartbeat out there,” Hurdle added. “He’s a very good athlete.”