Even before his Nationals career was over, Livan Hernandez was talking about how he’d like to return to the organization once he had thrown his last pitch. He wanted to be able to work with young pitchers, impart the knowledge that helped him forge a 17-year major league career, five of those seasons spent in a Washington uniform (and two before that north of the border with the Expos).
Now it appears that dream may become a reality.
Appearing at NatsFest on Saturday, the 38-year-old Hernandez adroitly danced around a question about whether he would join the Nationals in an unspecified role while sounding like a guy who would be driving from his home in Miami to Viera, Fla., for the first pitchers and catchers workout come Feb. 15.
However, general manager Mike Rizzo, speaking with reporters earlier in the day at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center, hinted that the Nats were close to an agreement with Hernandez to embark on his post-playing baseball career in an unspecified role.
“It’s something nice,” Hernandez said. “We talked a little but the other day two times on the phone. I’m very excited. Always, I wanted to do something and I want to do it in a place I like, and I think the best place is here.”
It’s unclear whether Hernandez’s role would be in a coaching or front office capacity, but Rizzo wants him in uniform at spring training to work with the team’s pitchers.
“Let’s see what happens,” Hernandez said, adding that he was waiting for an official offer from Rizzo.
Hernandez, always one of the most popular players in the Nationals clubhouse, had reporters laughing when he suggested, “I’m ready to ride the golf cart like Pat Corrales,” referring to the former Nats bench coach, catching instructor and special assistant to the general manager who often rode to and from workouts alongside Rizzo or former manager Davey Johnson in a golf cart.
But after a season of concentrating on golfing every day (he has a plus-2 handicap and thinks he could play on the celebrity tour this year) and keeping himself busy with multiple business interests, including a Florida-based home health company, Hernandez sounds ready to return to the game.
“You have to do something, at least playing golf or business or something,” he said. “I missed baseball a lot because I love baseball. I like to watch the TV and see what the people are doing - more the pitchers, seeing what people do wrong or right. I love to do that. ... It’s good, watching the young guys on TV.”
Hernandez said he has kept in contact with Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, phoning him during the 2013 season to encourage him in his pursuit to become a 20-game winner. He thinks the Nationals are bound for the playoffs in 2014, provided they can avoid their early season struggles from a season ago.
Any conversation with Hernandez includes the stock question about whether he wants to pitch again. But after 519 games, a 178-177 career record, nine organizations, two World Series and a championship in 1997, he sounds content to put his playing days behind him.
Or does he?
“The only problem is I never get hurt,” he said. “My arm feel good. I’ll go through some BP and see how it looks. I think I could be the best (at) throwing BP in the league. I throw a lot of strikes. ... I could throw three groups, easy.”