KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Livan Hernandez said it was tough facing the Nationals on Saturday afternoon, pointing out that he still has friends in the organization. Hernandez pitched two shutout innings and allowed three hits in a 3-1 victory.
"It was really weird [facing Hernandez]. I mean, I love the guy for a lot of reasons," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Not just because he is one heck of an athlete, but a heck of a pitcher. He was a great influence on this ballclub."
Hernandez spent seven of his 17 years with Nationals/Expos organization. On Friday, Hernandez received several text messages from his close friend, outfielder Michael Morse, who told him he was making the trip to Kissimmee, but Morse stayed back and worked out in Viera, Fla.
"Morse said, 'I'm coming here. You better be ready.' It's nice to hear from your friends," Hernandez said. "It's tough to face them, but everybody has to do their job. Whatever happens on the field, we are still friends. It's not easy facing your friends."
Hernandez was hoping to return to the Nationals for the 2012 season, even though he lost his job in the rotation to right-hander Stephen Strasburg last September. Hernandez told the Nationals he was willing to work out of the bullpen as a long reliever, but by the offseason, Hernandez knew that he wasn't returning to Washington. The Nationals are expected to rely on Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler as the long relievers.
"Baseball is all business. You have to do what you have to do," Hernandez said. "What's ever good for you, take it in a different way. [The Nationals] didn't need me anymore. They signed a couple of good pitchers -- Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson. I made a decision to go somewhere else.
"I knew that [going back to D.C.] wasn't going to happen and I prepared for that. ... A couple of people said, 'I want you back.' Inside, I said, 'Yeah, right.' ... We are still good. I'm still good with Johnson, [general manager] Mike Rizzo, who is a great guy. He was good to me all these years."
As a member of the Astros, Hernandez's role is no different than it was in Washington. He does his best to give the younger pitchers advice like he did for Strasburg, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann.
"It's good when they try to learn," Hernandez said. "Last year and the year before, we were working [that way] with Jordan, Lannan, Strasburg, [who] asked a couple of questions. You should tell people what you learned all those years and the way you learn it. It's easy to get here, but it's tougher to stay here for a long time."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.