Posted at 6:39 AM on March 27, 2008
by David Zingler
Fort Meyers -- Two months ago Livan Hernandez was a free agent hurler looking to latch on with a major league team in time for spring training. In the end he was forced to settle for a 1-year, $5 million contract - hardly what the 33-year-old former All Star had hoped for. Now, he's been pegged as the Twins Opening Day starter, a role formerly held by Johan Santana.
"I came in here kinda below the radar and thought I could surprise some people," Hernandez explained. "Now these guys want me to be their No. 1 guy; I hope the fans know that I'm no Johan Santana."
"Livy is the best we got right now," manager Ron Gardenhire admitted. "I wish we still had Johan, but that's not how it works in Minnesota. I still can't get over the Luis Castillo trade last year."
Hernandez meanwhile, seemed to set the bar low. "A lot people still think of me as the 21-year-old phenom who started Game 7 back in '97," the 12-year-veteran commented. "People had high hopes for me back then, but I've really just evolved into a .500 pitcher that eats innings and walks a lot of batters. This Opening Day stuff is a little above my pay grade."
"We believe in Livy," Gardenhire said. "But we'll need Cuddy, Morny, Delly and even Joey to hit a lot homeruns if we are going to contend this year."