At the end of his 17-season career lots of people made jokes about Livan Hernandez “throwing batting practice” because his fastball topped out in the high-80s and he served up a bunch of homers, but now he’s actually throwing batting practice.
Hernandez, who retired following the 2012 season and is now 39 years old, joined the Nationals as an “ambassador” and is now their official batting practice pitcher of choice. James Wagner of the Washington Post wrote a good article about Hernandez’s new role, including this excerpt:
But it isn’t just any regular batting practice. Hernandez actually pitches. Although he is closer to the plate than a standard mound, Hernandez throws almost as if he was in a game. Unlike coaches or bullpen catchers throwing fastballs, Hernandez throws curveballs, sliders and change-ups, too. Sometimes hitters will ask to simulate an at-bat and counts. A hitter struggling with breaking pitches might ask Hernandez for help and he will throw only curveballs to them. Hernandez can even mimic the delivery and times of that day’s opposing starter.
All joking aside, that seems like a pretty valuable thing to have for a baseball team. And not surprisingly for one of the most rubber-armed pitchers in baseball history, Hernandez said of his new gig: “I love it. If they left me there, I’d throw the entire day.”
The Rangers will not sign free agent reliever Seung-hwan Oh after all. Reports from MLB.com’s TR Sullivan indicate that negotiations were brought to a halt after a physical issue was found with the pitcher. While the specifics have yet to be released, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says the issue was revealed on an MRI of the right-hander’s arm.
Oh was thought to be in talks with the Rangers last week, though a deal was never officially announced by the club. The 35-year-old righty is fresh off of a two-year run with the Cardinals, during which he posted a cumulative 39 saves, 2.85 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.2 SO/9 in 139 innings. He struggled with consistency in his sophomore season, however, and finished 2017 with a disappointing 4.10 ERA and 4.44 FIP in 62 appearances for the team.
While Oh hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his arm in the majors so far, he does have a history of prior injuries during his time in KBO. He sustained a shoulder injury in 2009 and underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2010. It’s possible that the Rangers saw an entirely different problem on the MRI, but clearly it was enough to give them strong reservations about inking the righty to a $2.75+ million deal. It’s still possible that another of Oh’s suitors will offer him a contract prior to Opening Day; the Giants were rumored to be interested in the veteran reliever, among other teams, though their recent acquisition of lefty reliever Tony Watson will likely take them out of the running now.