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Hernandez to start Opening Day


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02/21/2004 6:51 PM ET

Hernandez to start Opening Day

Armas throws 50 pitches without pain

By Bill Ladson / MLB.com Buy tickets



Opening Day starter Livan Hernandez and manager Frank Robinson share a moment during Saturday's workout. (Paul Chiasson/AP)




VIERA, Fla. -- Manager Frank Robinson announced on Saturday that Livan Hernandez will be the Expos' Opening Day starter against the Florida Marlins on April 6.

It will be the fourth time in his career that Hernandez has been given such an assignment. The San Francisco Giants gave him the nod in 2001 and '02, and he had the honor with the Florida Marlins in 1998.


"It's good that I'm the Opening Day starter because that means I'll be facing the No. 1 starter for the other team," Hernandez said. "I like the competition. I like to pitch no matter who is on the other side."


Hernandez is coming off a season in which he went 15-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Montreal. Robinson is hoping that Hernandez not only repeats the performance on the mound, but continues to be the leader of the pitching staff.


Hernandez often made suggestions to teammates on how to pitch to certain hitters. He even taught them how to throw certain pitches. Robinson often called Hernandez, 29, "a young man, wise beyond his years."


"Livan has the qualifications, ability and personality to be that type of leader. I'm sure he will because I think it's just his nature to do it, especially when he's not pitching. He sets a good example for the pitchers, especially the young ones," Robinson said.


Hernandez doesn't plan on changing his style and will help the young pitchers.


"I'm the old guy in the rotation, so I can help the young guys," he said. "Last year I helped Claudio Vargas, Zach Day and a couple of guys in the bullpen. I want to do the same thing."


Making progress: Right-hander Tony Armas Jr., who missed most of last season because of a torn rotator cuff and labrum, threw 50 pitches off the mound on Saturday and didn't feel any pain. It was Armas' second bullpen session this week. On Wednesday, he threw 45 pitches.


Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said he was impressed with the way Armas' arm is progressing.


"His arm is working clean, delivery is smooth, and the ball is coming out of his hand very well. He looks great," St. Claire said.


According to St. Claire, Armas will take two days off and resume throwing off the mound on Tuesday. Armas will throw 50 pitches.


The Extra pitcher: Robinson admitted that he would like to have an extra starter just in case Armas is not ready to go by Opening Day.


According to Robinson, the Expos will monitor what's going on with other clubs to see who's available.


Hernandez is hoping that the Expos will consider picking up his half brother, Orlando, who didn't pitch an inning for the Expos in 2003 because of shoulder problems. Orlando was not offered arbitration and became a free agent.


Livan said that Orlando is 95 percent and could sign with somebody next week. The last time they pitched together was for the Cuban National Team in the early 1990s.


"I want to see my brother in the same rotation. ... I wish the Expos would sign him," Livan said. "Let's see what happens and see what decision my brother makes. I think he is going to make the best decision."


Breaking the jinx: This is Robinson's third year managing the Expos. If one looks at Robinson's history as skipper of the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles, Year Three has not been kind to him. All three teams finished under .500 after having a winning record the previous season.


Robinson was not aware of the statistic and said all he can do is work hard as a manager.


"A manager is only as good as his players and, hopefully, we can have a good year and reverse my trend," Robinson said. "Starting this year, we have a clean slate and I feel that if we stay healthy, we'll have a team that will be able to compete. Will we win a championship or win the Wild Card? I don't know. We'll learn more about that during the course of the season. Certainly, this ballclub can have a successful year."


Quote of the day: "I have a lot of things going on. I'm trying to get my arm ready, I have a kid on the way. Check out names and learn how to change diapers. When it rains, it pours." -- Pitcher Dan Smith.


Did you know? The Expos are 2,688-2,848-4 during their 35 seasons in the National League.


Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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