Livan Hernandez stood at his locker in the Nationals clubhouse Sunday afternoon, after he’d completed his final start of the season, with an uncertain future. His contract status for 2012 is up in the air and he said Sunday he’d given Mike Rizzo the salary he’d like to come back and pitch next year in Washington.
Now, he said, he waits.
But Mike Rizzo said before Sunday’s game that he and Hernandez were going to talk about the contract situation in the offseason and probably not before then. If he indeed has Hernandez’s terms, he isn’t planning to agree or disagree for the next few weeks.
“I’m not going to say that it’s his last start as a National,” Rizzo said. “Livan and I are going to talk in the offseason. He wants to be here. We love Livo and I think there’s a fit for him here — during his playing career and beyond. We’ve discussed that with him, too.
“I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s his last start ever. To me, things can happen in the meantime. The fact of the way he handled the whole situation when Davey spoke to him about it, it tells you all that you need to know about Livan Hernandez. He puts the team before himself and he’s a terrific team player, that’s why we like him so much.”
Hernandez reiterated today that he has no idea what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. He wants to be a National. He may have won the 1997 World Series with the Florida Marlins, but he’s been an integral member of the Nationals organization for a long time now. The team and the city are where he wants to be.
“It’s not in my hands,” Hernandez said. “I know what I want (for salary) and I’m asking for something. I’ve got to wait and see what the answer is. It’s not in my hands. But what I’m asking is not too much.
“I love the city and I love to play here. I did it last year. I had a chance to go away and I did it the year before. I had a chance to go somewhere else and I don’t do it. I waited and I came back and played here. Last year, I had a chance to make more money somewhere and I didn’t do it. I came back here for less and less money.”
Hernandez brought up an interesting point. He’s making $1 million this year. He did not disclose the sum of money he has asked for in a possible 2012 contract, but you’d have to imagine it certainly won’t be more than that. He said, for a guy who makes 25-30 starts a year and throws 200 innings almost routinely, he’s probably quite a bargain.
So I looked into it.
There were 20 pitchers who threw 200-plus innings in 2010. Only five of them made less than Hernandez’s $900,000 salary. The average 2011 salary of those 20 pitchers is $9,882,925. Hernandez is making $1 million. In fact, all of the pitchers in this group making less than Hernandez this season are ones who are still within their first few years of major league experience and are still under team control.
“I think I’m the more cheap guy,” Hernandez said. “But more important is how you feel, do you feel happy. Everybody told me (in the past), ‘You can make more money (elsewhere). It’s not about the money. I’ve got a great career here. I’ts very nice. For al ot ofpeople maybe it’s not but for me and the people that play with me, everybody knows that I give 100 percent every five days.
“Maybe I’ll be the Cuban guy with the most wins in the big leagues.”
For now, Hernandez will begin a transition to a mentor and a coach for the Nationals young pitching talent. He’ll help pitching coach Steve McCatty and manager Davey Johnson reinforce the messages they’re trying to get across in the season’s final month. In reality, it’s no different than what he does on a daily basis anyway. He just won’t be taking the mound every five days.
“That was a big part of the reason why I brought him in here to begin with,” Rizzo said. “I knew that he cared enough. There are certain players that embrace sharing with the younger players, certain guys don’t. He was one who always did and that adds a lot to the pitching staff beyond his pitching on the mound.”
As for next year, wait and see, just like Hernandez.
“That’s a decision that’s made down the road,” Johnson said. “I know Mike Rizzo really admires him and appreciates what he’s done here over the years. He’s had an unbelievable career. What we’re trying to do is build something. It’s the time of year where we’re going to look at some young arms. Some guys that earned the right to come up here and compete… It’s a very highly competitive business and you want to answer some questions when you have the opportunity. You know what (Hernandez) is but you don’t know what the young players are until you give them the opportunity.
“They liked me in Baltimore. They still shipped me out. You have to make room for some young talent. See what they got.