Jan 31, 2012, 10:45 PM EST
US Presswire photo
Livan Hernandez tips his cap to the crowd following his last start in Washington.
Whatever slim chance there was of Livan Hernandez returning to the Nationals for another season appears to have vanished. The veteran right-hander has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Astros, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.
Hernandez has started and won more games than any other pitcher in the Nationals’ brief history, posting a combined 4.32 ERA over two stints (2005-06, 2009-11). He started the Nats’ first-ever game at Philadelphia in 2005, the home opener at RFK Stadium one week later and the season openers in both 2006 and 2011 and remained a fan favorite through it all.
But an influx of young pitching has left the Nationals with six strong candidates for five spots in this year’s Opening Day rotation, and despite affection for the 36-year-old hurler, the club had no reason to engage in serious contract talks this winter.
Though he agreed to a minor-league deal, Hernandez should have a shot at cracking the Astros’ Opening Day rotation. Coming off a 106-loss season, Houston is seeking a No. 5 starter this spring. Candidates include left-handers J.A. Happ and Zach Duke (who just signed a minor-league contract this week).
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