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.”
Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has not had a good postseason. Entering Monday night’s NLCS Game 3, he was batting .111/.238/.278 in 21 trips to the plate across the NLDS and the first two games of the NLCS.
Defense has also been an issue for Grandal. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Grandal was on the hook for two passed balls. In the sixth inning of Game 3 Monday night, he couldn’t corral a curve in the dirt, which allowed Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run of the night. Starter Walker Buehler was charged with a wild pitch. In the eighth, with Ryan Braun on first base and Shaw at the plate, Grandal again couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt, allowing Braun to move to second base. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Alex Wood was able to escape the inning with no damage.
Manager Dave Roberts said that Austin Barnes, not Grandal, will start behind the plate for Game 4 on Tuesday night, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. That comes as no surprise at all. When Grandal struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Dodger fans regaled him with boos.
Barnes will be an upgrade defensively, but he’s lacking with the bat. He had an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2, though with an RBI, bringing his career slash line in the playoffs to .200/.281/.300 across 57 plate appearances. During the regular season, his career 100 adjusted OPS is a fair bit behind Grandal’s 115. Roberts is trading offense for defense in Game 4. Rich Hill will get the start opposite the Brewers’ Gio González.