Braves sign 37-year-old Livan Hernandez as reliever/spot starter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Fifteen years after Livan Hernandez’s 15-strikeout game against the Braves in the NL Championship Series, the 37-year-0ld pitcher has joined the Braves.

The Braves signed him to a one-year, $750,00 major league contract Friday and plan to use the stocky right-hander as a long reliever and spot starter. Braves general manager Frank Wren said he called Hernandez’s agent five minutes after the pitcher was released Friday morning by the Houston Astros.

“Very nice to come to a good team with a chance to make the playoffs, go to the World Series and win the World Series,” said Hernandez, who has pitched more than 3,100 innings, made 474 starts and compiled a 174-176 record and 4.39 ERA in 17 seasons. “The Braves have got a lot of history. I know a lot of people here from playing against them.”

Among current major leaguers, only Jamie Moyer has more starts and innings than Hernandez, on his eighth team.

Wren said Hernandez will not affect the No. 5 starter competition between Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran.

“Not at all — totally separate,”  said Wren, who has known him since Hernandez was a 20-year-old Cuban defector who signed a free-agent contract with the Marlins in 1995 when Wren was Florida’ s assistant GM.

With the Braves, Hernandez can earn additional incentives for innings ($125,000 each for 110, 120, 130, 140, 150 and 160) and games ($50,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60), with a $750,000 maximum limit.

Hernandez was a rookie when he famously exploited umpire Eric Gregg’s wide strike zone in Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS, piling up 15 strikeouts in a win against Greg Maddux. Those Marlins went on to win the World Series.

His 7-3 record and 3.97 ERA in 12 postseason games includes 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three games (two starts) against the Braves in 1997 and 2002.

His fastball is about 15 miles per hour slower now and Hernandez relies on guile, location and changing speeds, including big, slow curveballs. He won 10 games with a 3.66 ERA in 211-2/3 innings for Washington just two years ago, and was 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA in 29 starts for the Nationals last season.

“He’s got a lot of guts,” Braves catcher David Ross said. “He definitely gives you a chance to win when he’s out there. That’s all you can ask. You can count on him to take the mound. He wants the ball. That’s a hard thing to put a value on.”

Hernandez pitched at least 200 innings in 10 seasons and more than 230 in five, including NL-leading totals from 2003 through ‘05. He had 41 wins and 734-2/3 innings pitched in that three-season stretch with Montreal and Washington.

“He definitely gives innings,” Braves veteran Eric Hinske said. “He definitely does that.”

Wren was former Florida general manager Dave Dombrowski’s assistant in the 1990s and was in a small group of Marlins officials who traveled to the Dominican Republic to scout Hernandez after he defected from Cuba.

The Marlins wined and dined him in Miami – Wren recalls taking Hernandez to South Beach and to dinner at Gloria Estefan’s Miami restaurant – and beat out multiple teams to sign him.

“Now I’ve got him on the back end [of his career],” Wren said. “The thing about Livan, he competes. That’s half the battle. When you’re out there and you think you can get  hitters out — someday you don’t have your best stuff but if you think you can get hitters out you’re going to figure out a way. And he’s always had that ability.”

Hernandez was 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in five starts this spring for the Astros.

“We made it clear to Livan that he was not in competition for the fifth-starter spot at this point,” Wren said, “that he would be a long man and maybe an occasional spot starter, where you don’t want to run to Triple-A to get a guy for one start.  And we also have some flexibility now with Cristhian Martinez.”

Martinez was a long relief specialist last year, but with Hernandez aboard they can use Martinez in various situations.

Hernandez will fill one of the last two bullpen vacancies, which until Friday looked as if they would go to Cory Gearrin and lefty Yohan Flande. Gearrin might be the pitcher most affected by the move.

Hernandez said there was another benefit to signing with Atlanta. “I don’t have to face the Braves anymore,” he said, smiling.

He has a 9-18 record in 37 regular-season games against the Braves, his worst against any team. But after going 3-15 with a 5.52 ERA in his first 25 games against them, he was 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his past 12 starts.

The Braves still have five open spots on their 40-man roster, and Wren said they were working on other possible deals.

250 comments Add your comment

Dedoh

March 30th, 2012
3:45 pm

Bring back Eric Gregg.

Sose

March 30th, 2012
3:48 pm

This seems to me like a preparation move for trading Medlen away for a bat. I hope it’s not the case unless it’s a very nice bat!

Tana

March 30th, 2012
3:51 pm

Flande has looked great. No way he should lose his spot. He’s earned it.

erik

March 30th, 2012
3:52 pm

I think the Braves would trade Tehran or Delgado before letting Medlin go

GONNA MISS CHIP

March 30th, 2012
3:53 pm

not a bad signing

Darren

March 30th, 2012
3:54 pm

Dedoh, that might be kind of tough. He’s been dead for a while.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
3:54 pm

Looks like a move born out of desperation. What has happened to all that vaunted pitching depth if we have to sign Hernandez? Another great move by Fumbling Frank Wren.

John Ash

March 30th, 2012
3:54 pm

DOB, any chance we go after Bobby Abreu now that the Indians deal fell apart? Will the Angels be willing to eat a good chunk of his $9 million salary?

retired

March 30th, 2012
3:55 pm

or maybe Medlin is the 5th starter better yet

Brent

March 30th, 2012
3:55 pm

Medlen is too valuable. I do not see him being trade bait.

slimbo

March 30th, 2012
3:57 pm

The braves are not trading tehran or delgado. If this move was to trade an arm it was made for Medlin. Wren loves his future starters and he sees tehran and delgado as anchoring the starting rotation for cheap in the next couple of years.

Sid Vicious

March 30th, 2012
3:57 pm

Now the strike zone will get way smaller this year…At-least when he is pitching

PMC

March 30th, 2012
3:58 pm

Did we sign Eric Gregg’s strike zone too?

slimbo

March 30th, 2012
3:58 pm

Medlen has been the ‘red-headed stepchild’ out of the bunch all along…

justafan

March 30th, 2012
3:59 pm

Maybe a good thing.. Hope so..I always did like Livan. Now trade Gearrin and keep Flandi. Thanks DOB.

Mike in TX

March 30th, 2012
3:59 pm

I hope this doesn’t signify them trading Medlen. Medlen > Hernandez all day.

Stan

March 30th, 2012
3:59 pm

Do you smell the desperation in the air? From contender to running joke in months.

David from Athens. AL

March 30th, 2012
3:59 pm

After reading all the gashing of teeth, I see potentially more pluses than negatives. FG will not wear over use him (smile)! GO Braves

Sniffles McGee

March 30th, 2012
4:00 pm

Livan may not be too bad in a long relief role. I definitely like the idea of moving Martinez up in the bullpen pecking order. He was VERY solid and probably underrated last year.

justafan

March 30th, 2012
4:01 pm

Could work out to be ok deal.

SC Ace

March 30th, 2012
4:01 pm

37…. HA! Did you write that with a straight face?

Heisenberg

March 30th, 2012
4:01 pm

I hope it means they are looking at Meds as a starter.

AZBravoFan

March 30th, 2012
4:02 pm

Wow! Gonna be hard to get used to. What’s next? Pick up Leyritz to shore up the bench??

urban redneck

March 30th, 2012
4:02 pm

teheran and delgado are untouchable. medlen is not.

we should win the whole thing now with the signing of another aging pitcher.

Abnerish

March 30th, 2012
4:02 pm

If you can’t beat him, have him join you!

0-my

March 30th, 2012
4:04 pm

he’s trying to catch Chipper at 40..

Heisenberg

March 30th, 2012
4:04 pm

I do not think Braves need Bobby Abreu. Remember the last time Braves got an aging left handed hitting outfielder from the Halos?

B

March 30th, 2012
4:05 pm

I don’t get it… WHY??? I’ve been very supportive of Wren so far, but I don’t understand this move at all… Hernandez is a bum now. what value does he bring, we have more pitchers then we know what to do with. I thought Medlen was out long reliever/spot starter… and Medlen is WAAAAAY better then Hernandez, Wren better not trade Medlen….

dogsbrekky

March 30th, 2012
4:06 pm

Did Medlen get caught banging all the Brave’s hierachy’s wives or something. What does he have to do to convince them he is the “LITTLE Mad-Dog”

space monkey

March 30th, 2012
4:06 pm

Works for me. Now start Medlen.

704_Brave

March 30th, 2012
4:07 pm

DOB – Thanks for the tireless work this ST…great upates esp. on twitter. Will you be posting final minor league assignments once announced? Assuming Miss. for Pastornicky/Simmons runner up?

Decent move for Braves if Livan can still pitch…unfortunately, I’m just not sold on it…but low cost if it doesn’t pan out.

Turlock Brave

March 30th, 2012
4:08 pm

I’m very glad that I was not drinking coffee while reading that headline. Things could have gotten messy.

MikeY

March 30th, 2012
4:08 pm

So is Hernandez better than Asencio? I sure don’t think so…but that seems to be the “trade” we just made.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:08 pm

This year’s Sherrill.

parabrave

March 30th, 2012
4:08 pm

AW heck bring back Julio Franco. Bet he would start at SS with our current SS situation

BC

March 30th, 2012
4:10 pm

Are you kidding me? I thought the old timers, did exhibition games. How in the heck did this guy get a one year contract form a team that is supposed to be so pitching heavy? Is his agent Scott Boras, or does he have pictures of Frank Wren? Something smells fishy…

Robert ( chi-town)

March 30th, 2012
4:10 pm

Now go get Marlon Byrd to play left field!

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:12 pm

Fumbling Frank has an astute eye for talent. This must be the move we have been promised.

George Stein

March 30th, 2012
4:13 pm

I think Frank Wren misspelled “Kris Medlen.”

AZBravoFan

March 30th, 2012
4:13 pm

don’t forget this move solidifies our bench as well. Dude can still rake. Probably has more power than Diaz and Constanza combined.

Heisenberg

March 30th, 2012
4:14 pm

Not sure if Hernandez is better than Asencio. But I bet he costs more. Doubt the $$ from Clevelend covers what Livan is getting paid. So at least you can say Braves were not cheap.

Bryan from Kansas (Go KU)

March 30th, 2012
4:16 pm

And again I ask…What about Kris Medlen???

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:16 pm

Gives Chipper someone his age to hang out with.

chipfrumatl

March 30th, 2012
4:17 pm

This allows the young arms to learn some things from the Veteran, smart move, plus nothing to lose. Let the young guys goto AAA and work on things.

phoenix

March 30th, 2012
4:17 pm

Evidently they learned Bob Feller was no longer available, so they got the next best thing.

Retired 6 years too late

March 30th, 2012
4:18 pm

Bring back Phil Neikro, Gene Garber, Rick Camp and Buz Capra. Liberty Media is the laughing stock of MLB not that the Dodgers has new owners. Seem like the 1970 Braves…………….where is Manager Dave Bristol?

Retired 6 years too late

March 30th, 2012
4:18 pm

Just A Fan

March 30th, 2012
4:19 pm

This shows what the Braves management really thinks of their team. They think adding Hernandez is an improvement. Gonna be a long summer.

Retired 6 years too late

March 30th, 2012
4:20 pm

Maybe Luman Harris as manager instead of Dave Bristol…….Ole Luman Harris…..what a winner!

cory

March 30th, 2012
4:20 pm

I actually like this move. With Hernandez as the long-relief guy, Medlen and Martinez become more useful in the bullpen. We can pitch them without having to worry about when we will need them for long-relief. This makes the BP a lot more dynamic. Good move.

Bud No Weiser

March 30th, 2012
4:22 pm

He always pitched well AGAINST us. Now he’ll probably suck.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:24 pm

I’m so excited, I’m buying season tickets!

chc4

March 30th, 2012
4:26 pm

This is not a good sign for the young prospects I don’t care what spin Wren puts on it. Teheran and Delgado have both gotten shelled this spring. This is hedging against their ineffectiveness. I have a bad feeling about the 2012 season. Hope I’m wrong.

jordan

March 30th, 2012
4:26 pm

Can’t believe we signed Livan Hernandez. Wow. He’s one guy I never imagined donning a Braves uni.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:28 pm

Fans waited all winter and spring for this?

theriddler

March 30th, 2012
4:28 pm

Byrd is not an upgrade. He is 34 years old and declining.

ohforfour

March 30th, 2012
4:29 pm

What I find odd is that Hernandez couldn’t stick with the Astros – a team that SUX. I dind’t realize the Astros were so deep in pitching talent. So the Braves swoop in and sign him?

sportsmandh

March 30th, 2012
4:30 pm

If Jurrjens is a free agent next year, maybe we should trade him to the Cubs now for Byrd and a relief pitcher and start Medlin.

wayn-o

March 30th, 2012
4:30 pm

I agree with ‘cory’ plus it allows for a possible trade of a prospect pitcher for a bat since Medlen can start

jfreak13713

March 30th, 2012
4:30 pm

Braves have 3 of their five starters with recent injuries and either didn’t finish last season or wont start on opening day this season. I like the move because it gives the Braves a Vet who can start if / when one of the other starters goes down plus extra arm on bench. Doesn’t make the Braves favorite to win super bowl but it doesn’t hurt their chances either.

Funkybobbyj

March 30th, 2012
4:31 pm

Hernandez is an innings eater – something really nice to have with a young developing staff. It is a good and inexpensive protection policy. I think it is a good move for the Braves to have a cagy guy like this in their pocket.

luvthosedawgs68

March 30th, 2012
4:31 pm

All the negative people on here don’t get it!!! Fredi will need Medlen to pitch later in games, so he doesn’t wear the triple headed monster out (O’ventbrel). Kris could be used in the rotation later in the year, if desperation sets in. This is the perfect situation for Hernandez! Do you know haw many times in the last couple of years that he has put very good players in horrible slumps. How about thinking before typing once in a while you negative drama queens!!! It’s not like we signed Livan to be the opening day starter!

Nova Scotia Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:32 pm

I hear Julio Franco is available

CrαZy

March 30th, 2012
4:32 pm

I figured he had at leasr 20 wins against the Braves.

Mizzou

March 30th, 2012
4:32 pm

And he shall be Livan, and he shall be a good man . . .

KK

March 30th, 2012
4:33 pm

Chipper needed to reminisce with someone

luvthosedawgs68

March 30th, 2012
4:34 pm

And to those with positive comments. Thanks for the input! The season hasn’t started yet, but the negativity seems to be gettin’ out of hand.

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:35 pm

Well, if you can’t beat him, sign him. 15 years later.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:36 pm

Print the World Series tickets!

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:36 pm

What’s Sterling Hitchcock up to these days?

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:38 pm

Or hell, let’s go all out and get Jack Morris!

BooBoo

March 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

Is Gaylord Perry still alive? He would be a good addition as spot starter and spitball reliever. How about giving Knucksie another shot?

Vino Fino

March 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

This actually seems like a decent fit to fill the bullpen need, but there is just something FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG about Livan being a Brave!!! This guy has been a nemesis for so long, he’s one of the last players I would have ever envisoned in an Atlanta uniform. That NLCS Game 6 is still burned in my brain as one of the biggest hose jobs ever perpetrated, and I still feel resentmet when Livan takes the mound. Rubber-armed innings eater or not, I’m going to have a real hard time pulling for him!

Stinger2

March 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

Steve: Sometimes people are considered smart when they don`t say anything.

Skeezix

March 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

I remember well the 5th game of the 1997 NLCS. The problem was that Gregg gave Hernandez that triple wide strike zone, but when Maddux was pitching, it was much narrower. My blood pressure still goes up thinking about how he screwed us.

Todd - Lawrenceville

March 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

Actually, I believe this is a good signing. Livan: don’t like him; I was at the Game 5 in Miami, uppdr deck behind home plate and it was worse in person. You can’t blame Livan, but blame Eric Gregg; he made the calls.

I think he can still pitch and the way he pitch, 37 years old should not pose a problem. He’s fighter on the mound., so enough of the age and Julio Franco stuff. Livan is a Brave now.

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:43 pm

I was at Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS! Livan Hernandez has been the bane of my existence for FIFTEEN years!!

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:44 pm

No one saw this coming.

BooBoo

March 30th, 2012
4:45 pm

The 2012 Atlanta Braves have better odds of winning the Super Bowl than the World Series.

Mitchell

March 30th, 2012
4:46 pm

Dear Frank Wren,

If Delgado or Teheran are not shaping up to be the future stars of the franchise you had hoped then a) stop endlessly blathering about how great they are, or b) decide which one to trade for a bat.

Also, you’re an idiot.

Thank you.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:47 pm

Thank you, Mitchell. Well said

ashamed

March 30th, 2012
4:47 pm

i think that i will vomit

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:49 pm

Somewhere, in the big ballpark in the sky, Eric Gregg is calling a strike on a pitch two feet outside.

MikeY

March 30th, 2012
4:49 pm

My guess is that since Houston released Hernandez from a major league contract, the Braves are only on the hook for major-league minimum salary.

BooBoo

March 30th, 2012
4:51 pm

If Hernandez does not have the Braves to pitch against, then who can he beat?

iTiSi

March 30th, 2012
4:52 pm

I know it’s early, but SOMEBODY please tell me this is an April fool’s joke! I cannot tolerate this guy! I can’t stand to watch him pitch, NO MATTER WHO HE PITCHES FOR. I am already off the wagon from last year and from spring training so this just gives me one more reason not to watch. There is NO WAY this “old geezer” will help the braves. Who made this decision? I know, the same ones who have made all the other boneheaded decisions. GOOD GRIEF, CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?

Vino Fino

March 30th, 2012
4:52 pm

Oops. Game 5, that is.

Puma

March 30th, 2012
4:53 pm

This only makes sense to me if it means that Medlin is now in the rotation, because if not, they already have Meds and C Martinez in that long relief role.

If they drop Livan at some point, what are they on the hook for exactly? Thats the big question, and my guess is league minimum. So, its worth the gamble. If nothing else we don’t have to face him, it seems like all of those old slow-a** pitchers killed the braves.

79

March 30th, 2012
4:54 pm

Actually, Braves signed him to be right handed pinch hitter.

Steve

March 30th, 2012
4:55 pm

Maybe he can do double duty as the pitcher’s hitting coach.

BooBoo

March 30th, 2012
4:57 pm

I thought the Braves organization showed class when it signed Satchel Paige and actually put him in a game at age 60-something, so he would qualify for a pension. Maybe there is some gimmick with Livan?

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
4:59 pm

According to Baseball Reference, he was 9-18 vs Braves in his career. I don’t remember EVER beating him, let alone 18 times.

David O'Brien

March 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Livan signed for same amount — $750K — as his deal with Houston, but this one’s a major league deal (Astros cut him today so they didn’t have to pay a big chunk of that amount).

It’s loaded with additional incentives for innings and games pitched, beginning at $125,000 for 110 innings and $50,000 for 35 games.

Tennessee Braves Fan

March 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

Have never liked, but always respected Livan…. In my mind 10 times better then Lowe 2 years ago and a ton cheaper… DOB… Your thoughts?……

Oregon_Braves

March 30th, 2012
5:06 pm

Mizzou – That reference didn’t go unnoticed. Thanks for the smile.

Tennessee Braves Fan

March 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

Jordan at 4:26… Me either… I always thought he either pitched us real tough or would just implode… he is most definitely still an innings eater… I just hope he does not end up like Wes Helms last year… Never seeing a second with us in the show

Roy

March 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

Why he stinks!

Coach (2012 Fredi's beisbol fandango)

March 30th, 2012
5:11 pm

BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA……Just wait until this over the hill, should be retired veteran gets lit up like a damn Christmas tree, only then will fans realize just how far this franchise has to go before they get back to dominating again.

mpimentel

March 30th, 2012
5:11 pm

WE STILL NEED A BATTER …BUT FRANK WENT TO THE GARBAGGE TO SIGN THIS CLOWN…by the way for guys like me who have been a braves fan much longer that frank, this is disgusting…livan continued what leyritz start “the bad luck post season curse” for the braves…I still remember him yelling “I LOV YU MAIAMI”

Moylan Prado

March 30th, 2012
5:11 pm

Marlins vs Braves Game 5 2012 NLCS: Livan Hernandez starts out of necessity against Josh Johnson. Livan strikes out 15 Marlins with the help of Eric Gregg’s ghost, Braves win 2-1, go on to win World Series. Sweet Redemption.

Or probably not, but a man can dream can’t he?

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