Livan Hernandez released by Astros, signs with Braves

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UPDATE: Surprisingly enough, it didn’t take Hernandez long to find another gig. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that he’s signing with the Braves, who’ll apparently use the 37-year-old soft-tosser as a long reliever/spot starter. Good thing Calcaterra is on vacation today.

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Once thought to be a near-lock for the Astros’ rotation, Livan Hernandez was released today.

Hernandez signed a minor-league deal in late January and looked likely to eat some innings for an otherwise inexperienced pitching staff, but the 37-year-old right-hander got knocked around this spring and the Astros decided to give opportunities to Jordan Lyles and Kyle Weiland instead.

Hernandez was surprisingly effective for the Nationals in 2010, but allowed opponents to hit .291 off him last season while posting a 4.47 ERA in 175 innings. He struck out just 5.1 batters per nine innings and averaged 83.9 miles per hour with his fastball, so if Hernandez couldn’t crack what figures to be one of the worst rotations in baseball he may finally be finished.

Of course, I’ve said that before.

Mariners claim Kaleb Cowart off waivers from Angels

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The Mariners announced that the club claimed Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels. Interestingly, the Mariners list Cowart as both an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher. Cowart has never pitched professionally, but the Mariners will try him as a two-way player next season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Cowart was a highly regarded pitcher in high school.

Cowart, 26, has played all over the field, spending most of his time at third base and second base, but also logging a handful of innings at first base, shortstop, and left field.  He hasn’t hit much at all, owning a career .177/.241/.293 triple-slash line across 380 plate appearances in the big leagues. It makes sense to try another angle.

Shohei Ohtani, of course, is helping to popularize the rebirth of the two-way player. In his first year in the majors after having played in Japan for five years, Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances along with a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts. Don’t expect Cowart to hit those lofty numbers, but additional versatility could prolong his life in the majors.