For as often as I’ll curse Livan Hernandez’s name because of the infamous Eric Gregg game in the 1997 playoffs, I don’t really hold it against Hernandez. He was just taking what the umpire was giving him, and how on Earth can a fan of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux fault anyone for that? Eric Gregg can take a flying leap off of whatever plane of existence his soul currently inhabits, but Livan Hernandez is really hard to hate.
And indeed, after today’s most excellent feature story by Tom Boswell, it’s absolutely impossible not to like the guy. He’s never missed a start. He gets guys out with an 84 m.p.h. “fastball.” He throws 100 warmup pitches before a game. He called a home run he hit last year and then gave his bat to the Braves fan he was taunting about it. In the middle of an outstanding 2010 season he bypassed his agent and told Mike Rizzo that he’d pitch for a million bucks in 2011 because he was happy where he was and didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
I love pitchers, and the pitchers I love the most are the laid-back ones who don’t seem to over-think stuff. They just throw the ball, don’t really get too worked up about anything and want to pitch until they’re old and gray. Hernandez is like that. He says he wants to be “the Jamie Moyer of right-handers.”
I’d be shocked as hell if he lasted another five years let alone another 11 or 12 to reach Moyer’s longevity, but you can’t not love the attitude.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.
Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:
I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.
The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.
The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.
Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.
Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.
The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.