By Joe Christensen
When Livan Hernandez struggled early in spring training, he said the light would come on March 31. So here we are, on March 31, getting ready for his eighth career Opening Day start and his first season in the hitter-friendly American League.
Hernandez went 2-2 with a 6.38 ERA in six starts this spring, allowing 31 hits and five walks in 24 innings. On paper, the Angels would seem to have a tremendous advantage tonight, with righthander Jered Weaver on the mound. He went 5-0 with a 1.37 ERA this spring, allowing just 18 hits and three walks in 26 1/3 innings.
I have no idea what to expect, but I believe Hernandez when he talks about taking his game to a different level. Early this spring, I found an article in the Washington Post, previewing Livan’s Game 3 start for Arizona in last year’s NLCS.
It mentioned how Livan led the majors with 247 hits allowed and was second in opponent’s batting average (.308), on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.499). And it mentioned this quote by Diamondbacks first baseman Conor Jackson:
“It’s truly unbelievable because he comes into spring training, and he gets hit. He gets hit in spring training, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ And then he gets in the regular season, and it’s a completely different Livan.”
For what it’s worth, Hernandez took the loss against the Cubs in Game 3. But the score was 1-1 entering the sixth inning. You can argue the Twins were wrong to pick Hernandez as their Opening Day starter. He might surprise and he might stumble. But whatever happens, I don’t think it’ll have anything to do with jitters.