The Nationals announced this afternoon they have signed Livan Hernandez to a contract extension that will keep the right-hander in Washington through the 2011 season.
Hernandez, who signed a $900,000 minor-league deal in February, has become one of the biggest success stories of the Nationals' season. He's posted a 3.49 ERA in 27 starts, has thrown 175 1/3 innings and is tied for the team lead in wins with nine.
"We think that he's earned it," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "His coming to spring training in terrific condition and pitching great throughout the season, it's something he earned and deserved. He can be a guy for us through the winter that we know he's part of the ballclub, and we know every fifth day, we'll be handing him the ball and have a quality start."
The deal makes sense for the Nationals; Hernandez was going to get a guaranteed deal as a free agent this winter, and would probably make more on the open market after having a solid season. He's said he wanted to stay, and the Nationals like the way he's embraced being a mentor to young pitchers. Locking him up now gives them some certainty in their rotation next year, as well; they won't have Stephen Strasburg, and will have to make decisions on Scott Olsen (who is entering his last year of arbitration) and John Lannan (who is entering his first).
The 35-year-old Hernandez came into camp in better shape than he'd been in years, crediting, of all things, his regular racquetball games in Miami. And Rizzo said that was a big part of the reason Hernandez got the deal. I'd guess there might be some incentives in it, related either to his physical condition or his durability.
Said Hernandez: "It's a big year for me. I said in spring training, I wanted to come back to the performance I used to, the last few years. It's happened right now. I feel really good about myself and the work I do."