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The ageless Livan Hernandez and racquetball

Just about everyone knows Livan Hernandez at his L.A. Fitness club in Miami, located in a predominantly Cuban area of the city. The familiarity led to a discovery that led to Hernandez arriving at Nationals spring training in prime condition. One morning this offseason, someone recognized Hernandez and challenged him to a game of racquetball. Hernandez had never played, but he accepted anyway.

"Somebody called me out," Hernandez said. "Some guy said, 'You want to play racquetball?' I said, 'Oh, let's go play.' He beat me 15-1, 15-2. I said, 'Okay, this is not easy.' But I started liking it and liking it."

Hernandez's new regimen - racquetball every morning - helped him arrive in camp in shape. After tonight, Hernandez's place in the Nationals rotation seems secure. He allowed the Yankees, playing with full lineup, three hits, two walks and one run over five innings of a 3-1 Nationals loss. He struck out three, including Mark Teixeira twice. His ERA for the spring now sits at 2.25.

"He's really competing well to earn one of those spots," Manager Jim Riggleman said.

By this weekend, the Nationals will decide their five-man rotation, Riggleman said. Hernandez has a chance owning in part to, of all things, racquetball. After that first game, Hernandez started playing every day, usually three or four games a day. He played eight one day. He played, and lost, against 60-year-old men, those annoying opponents who know how to play the angles and nestle the ball into corners. One ball smacked him in the face, and another left his back bruised.

"It's a tough game," Hernandez said. "It's not easy. There's a lot of good players there."

The daily games added up. Before the offseason ended, Hernandez was in great shape.

"It was important, because he was trying to get a job," Riggleman said. "If he'd have come in out of shape and said, 'Let me just pitch and I'll be ready by the time the season starts,' we couldn't have taken that chance. He came in, his weight looked, his arm was in good shape, and he was ready to go."

Hernandez's knee, which gave him problems for the past two years, feels back to normal. He feels like he added a couple miles per hour to his four-seam tonight. Tonight, he used it for his first strikeout of Teixeira.

Hernandez has a lot of tread of tires - no one in the last decade threw more pitches or more innings. But he's still 35, an honest-to-God 35, he said. "If I'm cheating on my age, I'll give you a million bucks," Hernandez said. If Jamie Moyer is still out there pitching, why not Hernandez?

"I don't know how old he is," Riggleman said. "He just found an arm slot to throw from where he's always going to be comfortable. Certain guys are like that."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 24, 2010; 10:25 PM ET
Categories:  Livan Hernandez  
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Next: Looking after Stephen Strasburg and morning links


Good not-so-old Livo. Nice story, too.

Posted by: samantha7 | March 24, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Too bad you can't teach that particular arm slot...

And Livo absolutely looked great on the mound -- I didn't recognize him at first, so used have I been to seeing his belly these last couple seasons.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | March 24, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

This gives me hope, maybe Livo wont be so embarrassing this season, and who saw racquetball coming?

I think our opening day rotation could be defined as workmanlike, no one close to spectacular, but are always going to go out there and give it all they have and not beat themselves (well we'll see with Mock but for now). With Wang and Strasberg on their way this team may not be so bad after all.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 24, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

If any true Nats fan has anything detrimental to say about 80 year old Livo, they should be put on a "Banned From Nats Stadium" watch. This old man is amazing!
What's not to like about him with this year's limited starting rotation's possibilities?

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 24, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

I haven't been much of a Livo fan, but the man knows how to pitch, and, really, what's the competition at this point? Hard to argue with the Moyer comparison.

Posted by: nats24 | March 24, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

"Hernandez has a lot of tread of tires - no one in the last decade threw more pitches or more innings."

Can someone please translate this into English?

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 25, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

That means he's posting faster than he's reading, which is a mixed blessing, but I'll take it, secure in the belief that he'll get better about being faster, as he goes. He's still young, give him time.
Now, if he were an old lion of DC sportwriters and still doing this, it would pretty much be take-it-or-leave-it. To Boz or not to Boz.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 25, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

They should have let Livo hit. Then maybe we would have won the game.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 25, 2010 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Late coming in on the Mac signing --
Well, at least they didn't waste money on Jose Valverde.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 25, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

OK, I *WAS* banned from Nats Ballpark (not a stadium, please), and I had my #61 jersey out of the bottom drawer at the first pixel of "He's baaa-aaack!"
We love Livo, and if they had had five Livos last year, we'd still be [complaining] about it, but they would have won about 20 more games.

OK, I think this may double-post, but I'm trying anyway. software issues...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 25, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I can't post "[canid complaining]" but they won't yank hate speech here? WTF.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 25, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Okay, Nationals Park, not Nats Ballpark, please.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | March 25, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

... Livo, an ex-Expo!!

... and this just in (well, a week ago): oh, oh. Are the Marlins on the way out of town? Read When this happened to the Expos, it certainly marked the beginning of the end.

... so bye, bye, Loria, Samson et al. Couldn’t happen to a nastier bunch of mice.

Go Nats!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 25, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

... so bye, bye, Loria, Samson et al. Couldn’t happen to a nastier bunch of mice
I hate to burst your bubble, but they are building a new stadium in Florida that is scheduled for opening in 2012.

BTW having played some racquetball in college I know that it is one of the best cardio workouts you can get. Good for Livo!! I hope he wins his 300th as a National in about a dozen years.

Posted by: twinbrook | March 25, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

¡Viva Livo! I don't care what anybody says, I love the dude. (And age is just a number, Livo.) :-)

p.s. I thought you were 86'd, not banned, sec3?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 25, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

After watching the game last night Livo prob gets a spot. Holding the Yankees opening day lineup to what he did is exactly what the nats wanted to see in him.
Bergmann is terrible, if that guy is anywhere near this team on opening day im gonna be pissed.
Bernidina and Maxwell both suck at hitting but seem to be above average in the field. Cannot one of them be a toss in player in a SP trade?
Tyler Clippard is really good. It baffles me that this guy is not talked about more. If the backend of our rotation starts to falter(im thinking it might)they should not hesitate to use this guy as the setup maybe even closer.
Juries still out on Guz, time is running out for him I think they start Desmond.

Posted by: Stu27 | March 25, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Ray Knight ventured into forbidden territory in the broadcast when he noted that the Yankees were all set for opening day, giving their regulars at all positions three at bats and then sitting them, while in comparison . . .

But at that point, Bob Carpenter, the loyal company man, broke in and changed the subject to something innocuous. I don't know if Carpenter was trying to save Knight's job, or what.

Nevertheless, observing the contrast between the ready-to-go Yankees and the totally unready, disorganized and floundering Nats is almost too sickening to watch. It's not all payroll, folks, its management too.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 25, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Good job Adam. One of your best stories of the Spring!

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 25, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Late feb early march the excitment was about Olsen being healthy and some of the other people we brought into camp. Levo was an afterthought. Now it looks like we are back to where we left off at the end of last season. Almost.

Posted by: brianbu | March 25, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

But they didn't answer the biggest question about Livo... did all that raquetball reduce the size of his backside?

Posted by: jmurray019 | March 25, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, 86'd, banned for the day, whatever, from Nationals Park (TY Shepdave)

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 25, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

We wuld apreciate it if yu would pleese proofreed artikles.

Posted by: 1ofamillion | March 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Couple of mph on the four seamer? Must be up to like 77 now!

Posted by: dfh21 | March 25, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I love Livo - glad to have him back, and it's a bonus that he looks good (at least for now).

Posted by: PattyinSJ | March 25, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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