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Livan wants to lead Nats staff

Livan wants to lead Nats staff

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WASHINGTON -- Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than a week and right-hander Livan Hernandez is still a free agent. On Wednesday, Hernandez said he would like to play for the Nationals and be their Opening Day starter on March 30 against the Braves at the new Nationals Park.

Hernandez, 32, indicated that he wants to play where he is happy and he enjoyed his time with the Nationals/Expos for three-plus years. His time with Washington came to an end on Aug. 7, 2006, when general manager Jim Bowden traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Matt Chico and Garrett Mock. The Nationals were looking to rebuild their farm system when the trade was made.

"I was the Opening Day starter when the Nationals came to Washington [in 2005]. It would be nice to have that same feeling [at the new park]. Sometimes, it's not about the money. It's how you feel," Hernandez said by phone. "I would love to go to Washington. There are things to do over there. Maybe the [Nationals'] budget [is low]. I'm willing to work with anything."

Last year, Hernandez played for Arizona, going 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA in 33 starts and helping them reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season.

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There was a report out of Denver that Hernandez was close to a deal with the Mets, but, according to a baseball source, Hernandez is not in their plans because they acquired left-hander Johan Santana from the Twins in a blockbuster deal last week.

The Nationals would like to have Hernandez, but according to another baseball source, his representative was asking for a three-year deal and Washington is not willing to give Hernandez that kind of a contract. The team would offer no more than a one-year deal.

The Nationals could use a starter like Hernandez. He can eat innings and give the bullpen a break once in a while. Hernandez has pitched over 200 innings in nine of the last 10 years. The only pitcher who came close to eating innings for the Nationals on a regular basis was Chico, who was their only healthy starter.

"I want to get paid like anybody else. I have done my job for [over] ten years. I never missed a start. I pitched over 200 innings [almost] every year," Hernandez said. "I went to playoffs with Arizona last year. I [have playoff experience] with the Marlins and San Francisco. I'm really happy with my career. I think I could play for eight more years and then quit."

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

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