The team wants to see how well some of their young players, like right-hander Stephen Strasburg and left-hander Tom Milone, perform in the rotation.
Hernandez, 36, took the news well. Johnson also wants the veteran righty to stick with the team for the rest of the season and become a mentor/coach. Hernandez agreed to his new role. He will also pinch-hit, but will not work as a reliever.
A free agent after the season, Hernandez -- 8-12 with a 4.29 ERA in 28 starts this year -- reiterated that he wants to return to the Nats as a long reliever. He will not do that role for any other team. Johnson also told Hernandez that he would recommend to the front office that it re-sign him for 2012.
"It's part of the game," Hernandez said. "I want to help the young guys. I don' know what's going to happen next year. I want to try to come back and be a long reliever only for this team. I will not do it for anybody else. Let's see the situation. I'll give it a chance. I explained how much I want [to be in Washington] to [general manager Mike] Rizzo. Let's see what happens."
Hernandez said he remembered that when he was young, he learned the game from former Marlins teammate Alex Fernandez and Minor League manager Carlos Tosca. Not only did they teach Hernandez about baseball, but also how to be a professional.
"The most important thing is be a professional and try to do what you have to do to help anybody," Hernandez said. "I received help when I came into the league. Baseball is not easy. You have to give the young guys a chance and pitch in this level. This level is not easy. They have to see how they look."
Once his playing career is over, Hernandez is not sure what he wants to do. He would like to work for the Nationals and become a coach, and he's also thinking about becoming an agent or a professional golfer.