- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

DETROIT — It’s funny how baseball works sometimes. Livan Hernandez has been one of the game’s most reliable pitchers for nine seasons now, yet few seem to recognize him for it.

The Washington Nationals right-hander went 12-3 over the first half of the season, winning a career-high 11 straight starts, yet he received only minimal consideration to start tonight’s All-Star Game.

He owns 107 career victories, a World Series MVP trophy and led the majors in complete games and innings pitched each of the last two seasons, yet didn’t make his first All-Star team until 2004. And even then, he didn’t appear in the game.

National League manager Jack McKeon’s reason for not using Hernandez in last year’s game, according to the pitcher: “Because maybe the game will be tied, and they need to use me for three or four innings [in extra innings].”

Maybe this will be the year Hernandez finally gets his due. As the ace of the first-place Washington Nationals pitching staff, he’s making a name for himself where it counts the most: on the mound.

“I don’t care if I don’t get any credit,” Hernandez said. “I know who I am. I know that when I go on the mound and throw seven, eight innings a game, everybody who’s watching knows who I am. They know I’m the kind of pitcher who works hard and tries to stay in the game long.”

If Hernandez has built a reputation in baseball, it is for his tireless arm, one that has thrown the most pitches in the majors before the All-Star break.

He astonished onlookers with a nine-inning, 150-pitch outing June3 against Florida before coming back six days later and throwing 127 pitches against Oakland.

Hernandez’s rubber arm separates him from the rest of the pack. It’s what impresses teammate Chad Cordero the most.

“He has the tougher job,” said Cordero, who leads the majors with 31 saves. “He’s the one who has to go out there for eight, nine innings at a time. I just have to go one inning. Eleven straight wins, that’s a lot better than the save thing because he has to go out there and throw 160 pitches. I have to throw 20.”

Still, Hernandez was no better than fifth on the depth chart of potential NL starting pitchers for tonight’s game. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa gave the nod to his own right-hander, Chris Carpenter, over other top candidates Dontrelle Willis, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt.

La Russa did mention Hernandez yesterday as one of the pitchers he considered, but it’s doubtful the Cuban right-hander got more than a token look.

So Hernandez will take a seat in the NL bullpen beyond the left-field fence tonight, waiting to see whether he gets the call from La Russa. Make no mistake, he wants to appear in the game this time. But that’s not first and foremost on his mind.

“To be here with the best players in the major leagues,” he said, “It’s more important to be here and have a great time.”

And if the recognition doesn’t come at the All-Star Game, perhaps it will come October.

“I want to have a great second half,” Hernandez said. “It’s very important to me. I don’t want everything to go down now. I want to continue to work hard and try to make the second half, not better than the first half, but still good.”

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