Livan to the Rescue?

Since the Diamondbacks pulled the trigger on Monday that sent minor league pitchers Garrett Mock and Matt Chico to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Livan Hernandez, there have been high expectations of the Diamondbacks and of Hernandez. It was pretty clear that Livan was being counted on as the savior of this team. Those expectations may be a little too high as the 2006 Diamondbacks have more issues than one pitcher would be able to overcome. Besides Brandon Webb, none of the other four in the rotation have been models of consistency. At times Miguel Batista has looked brilliant such as his start in Oakland just before the all-star break but then there are times where it didn’t look like he even knew where the plate was (see his start against the Astros on August 4). Beyond that, the pitching staff has been a patchwork quilt for the season. Granted having Livan join the staff will help as he will eat innings and give the bullpen some needed rest but there are still huge question marks on how the other three starters will react and if they will be able to step-up and gain some consistency.

So tonight marked the first start for Livan Hernandez as a Diamondback and would perhaps set expectations of what we should anticipate. I’ve only seen a handful of starts in Livan’s career and didn’t really pay much attention. He is not the kind of pitcher who calls attention to himself. He expends just enough effort to get the job done and nothing more. He isn’t an overpowering pitcher who will throw the ball by a hitter. He has a knack of changing arm angles and his motion is somewhat deceptive making it difficult to pick-up the ball. But the most interesting thing about Livan is how quickly he works. It was like seeing two players playing catch. As soon as Estrada would throw the ball back to the mound Livan was set for his next pitch. Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins is likewise a fast worker so between the two of them it resulted in a very short game of 2:10 which was a record for the Diamondbacks this season.

Watching Livan pitch was impressive. He worked both sides of the plate and made the most of the strike zone he was given. Unfortunately he just did not get any run support. So his eight strong innings of work went for naught and the Diamondbacks fell to the Florida Marlins. The bullpen though had the night off and the relief corps seemed pretty relaxed beyond the left field wall. It is impossible to evaluate this trade based on a single game. I believe the dividends will be more apparent next season when the Diamondbacks have Livan for the entire season. Hopefully Josh Byrnes will be active in the free agent market this winter and find a way to bring in an impact pitcher such as Barry Zito or make a trade for Dontrelle Willis. If that should happen where the Diamondbacks would have Webb, Willis/Zito, and Hernandez as the top three starters then they would be legitimate contenders and would have to be considered the favorites in the National League Western Division.

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