Baseball is back. As we get closer to the regular season, be sure to stop by The Stew each morning for your get your daily helping of spring storylines.
Livan Hernandez is ready to call it a career, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. The 39-year-old right-hander is set to file his retirement papers on Thursday and officially leave behind a notable 17 years in MLB.
Hernandez's biggest moments came early, as he helped lead the Marlins to a World Series championship in 1997. After pitching well in 17 regular season starts, Hernandez posted a 4-0 record and 3.18 ERA over three starts and two relief appearances in the postseason. That included his incredible 15-strikeout performance against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS. The Marlins went on to the clinch the series in Game 6 and defeated the Cleveland Indians in a memorable seven game World Series.
Hernandez appeared in three more postseasons — two with the San Francisco Giants and one with the Arizona Diamondbacks — but never had another true spotlight moment. He was selected to back-to-back All-Star games in 2004 and 2005, which is made a little more significant because those came as a member of the final Montreal Expos team and the first Washington Nationals team. In fact, Hernandez is in the record books for throwing the first pitch in Nationals' history. It was during those seasons that he established himself as a true workhorse and innings eater, gobbling up at least 233 innings for three straight seasons beginning in 2003.
Though he never quite ascended to unquestioned ace status, the workhorse label stuck with him until he last pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012. He was always viewed as a quality arm to have in the middle of the rotation and a luxury at the back end, and rarely failed to live up to those expectations.
GARZA GIVES UP 10: Matt Garza was a late mover in free agency, only agreeing to his four-year, $52 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in late January. He's also proving to be a late bloomer in spring training, at least this season, as his struggles reached a crescendo in Wednesday's abbreviated outing against the Los Angeles Angels. In an inning and one-third, Garza was torched for 10 runs (six earned) on nine hits and one walk, which raised his spring ERA to 19.06.
It's not pretty regardless of how much you value or ignore spring stats, but a reminder that it's still plenty early comes courtesy of MLB.com's Aiden Gonzalez:
"I threw the pitch, they put the ball on the ground, and it just happens," said Garza, who introduced his slider and curveball for the first time and said both need work. "That's it. You can't worry about it. Just thank God it's only Spring Training."
Garza still has a handful of starts to work out the kinks with his breaking pitches. The Brewers will hope that's the case. Meanwhile, the Angels, who offered Garza $50 million over four years, probably aren't too disappointed he turned them down. At least, not yet.
WEEKS FEELS REASSURING 'POP' IN HAMSTRING: In other Brewers' news, Rickie Weeks, who's battling for playing time at second base with Scooter Gennett, was actually relieved to feel a pop in his surgically repaired left hamstring on Wednesday because it indicated his scar tissue had finally broken free.
“I’ve been waiting for that,” Weeks said. “It’s just free now, basically.”
Weeks left the game immediately afterwards to prevent a real setback, but told the media after the game he expects to be at full strength very soon.
“It’s a great thing, for sure. Now I’m good. … Now that I’ve had that release, I can keep strengthening it more and more, and just keep working through it.”
ERVIN SANTANA SIGNS WITH BRAVES: The 31-year-old right-hander finally found a home after the Atlanta Braves lost Kris Medlen to a second Tommy John surgery. The Braves could be without other starters Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor early in the season as well, so Santana serves as a much needed reinforcement. Our own David Brown covered the Santana signing extensively early on Wednesday.
HAMELS THROWS BULLPEN SESSION: The Philadelphia Phillies finally got some encouraging news on Cole Hamels. The club’s ace left-hander was able to complete a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday morning at Bright House Field and reported no issues afterward. It's the first time Hamels has thrown from a mound since March 1, when he felt discomfort in his left shoulder. Hamels has been dealing with inflammation that will cost him a few starts early in the season, but it appears he's on track to move forward with his spring preparation.
Though it doesn't appear to be a priority or something that's on the immediate horizon, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. hasn't ruled out the possibility of coaching in the big leagues.
"The safe answer is to say, I'm very happy doing what I'm doing right now because anything else I say can be pulled in different directions," Ripken said. "That would be the safe answer. I've had success in a couple of business models from the kids' models that I'm looking to duplicate around the country, which requires time and planning, but there is a side of me that would like to be able to apply what you know at this level. I have no plans. I have no business strategy. I have no professional baseball strategy whatsoever, but there's a side of me that feels that way. Does that leave the door open?"
Ripken notes he'd have to make significant personal and professional sacrifices to fit the job into his schedule. It seems like a long shot right now, but Ripken obviously understands the inch to return to the game in a larger capacity could return at any time.
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