By nature, Livan Hernandez is a pitcher who doesn’t get rattled by much. He prepares for his starts a certain way, blasting Latin music and reggaeton in the clubhouse before going out to the bullpen and working through an intricate warmup routine that often involves as many as 90 pitches. Once he gets on the mound, he attacks hitters with fastballs and changeups on the corners of the plate and curveballs that fall off those corners, often with speeds in the low 60s. If umpires aren’t cooperating with his strike zone, well, there’s always the next outing.
Hernandez, though, hasn’t had to deal with this before: He’s the subject of a federal investigation after testimony in the trial of Angel Manuel Ayala Vazquez linked the Nationals pitcher to the convicted Puerto Rican drug dealer.
A report in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero said Vazquez allegedly used Hernandez as a “straw man” to buy cars and a warehouse with a recording studio, auto mechanic’s shop and offices. Reports in Puerto Rico said those things were purchased with drug money, belonging to Vazquez but listed in Hernandez’s name.
The pitcher declined to comment on the investigation yesterday, and a team spokesman said the Nationals are “aware of and are monitoring the situation as it pertains to the Angel Manuel Ayala trial in Puerto Rico.”
Federal investigators reportedly will talk to Major League Baseball about the investigation in the next two weeks, and Hernandez - who started on opening day for the Nationals after leading the team in innings and strikeouts last year - could be further embroiled in the investigation.
If there’s ever something that’s going to rattle Hernandez on the mound, this could be it. He starts tonight for the Nationals against the Mets.