Livan Hernandez is an Atlanta Brave after failing to find a spot with the Houston Astros, who might be the worst team in baseball this upcoming season. The 37-year-old has spent the last few seasons with the Nationals, where he seemingly always killed the Braves whenever pitching against them, and his fastball tops out right around 84mph these days.
He even throws a curveball slower than most 13-year-olds do.
So why does Hernandez, who will serve as a spot-starter and long-reliever in the bullpen, make so much sense for Atlanta?
For one, with Hernandez serving as the innings eater in the bullpen, it allows the Braves to use Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez as their primary right-handed relievers, which makes a ton of sense. It would be silly to relegate two pitchers of their magnitude to work mop-up duty whenever a starter leaves early, and they should be very valuable assets along with Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh and eighth innings.
Not only does it strengthen the 'pen as a whole, but it should also help keep these guys fresher throughout the year, something that really hurt the club down the stretch in 2011.
While not a viable option for the starting rotation for more than a start every now and then, Hernandez does provide Atlanta with some insurance. Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are the only two pitchers without a concern of some kind -- Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens have battled serious injury in the last six months, and Tim Hudson remains on the mend following back surgery -- and neither Julio Teheran nor Randall Delgado have pitched well in Spring Training.
Does Livan Hernandez have enough left in the tank to pitch Game 7 of the NLCS? No, probably not. But if there are no other healthy options and Fredi Gonzalez needs a pitcher in April or May? Sure.
Finally, there are few guys around baseball who know more about pitching than Hernandez does. A proven veteran and true follower of the game, Hernandez has earned a reputation of being a first-class teammate and should be an excellent role model for Teheran and Delgado to learn from. That should be an invaluable asset to the Braves in the coming months.
A lot of folks around the country will poke jokes at the signing, but this makes a lot of sense for the Braves. There is nothing to lose, and it makes the bullpen even stronger than it was this time yesterday.