Knights Alumni: Livan Hernandez

Welcome back to the “Knight Fever” blog. Football is now officially over, which means it’s time for baseball to take over the hearts of sports fans around the world. It’s time to start planning your summer around America’s Pastime!

As Opening Day continues to quickly approach, there are so many fun and exciting things happening here at Knights Stadium. We continue to get ready for the upcoming season, which is now less than two months away.

If you are new to “Knight Fever”, welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read the blog. I hope you find it interesting.

Since Livan Hernandez was in the news last week, I thought I would begin a new feature series, focusing on former Charlotte Knights players. In the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at some former Charlotte Knights. I hope you enjoy this look down memory lane…

Livan Hernandez (1996 & 1997)

Last week, the Houston Astros came to terms with RHP Livan Hernandez on a minor league contract. Hernandez, 36, is a 16-year Major League veteran. Over that span, he’s compiled a 174-176 record with a 4.39 ERA.

Known as an innings-eater, and a workhorse, Hernandez is a two-time National League All-Star and won the 1997 World Series MVP award with the Florida Marlins — the team he broke-in with.

Knights History: By coming up through the Marlins system, fans of the Charlotte Knights had a chance to get an early glimpse into the career of this hard-working Cuban right-hander. (For those of you who don’t know, the Knights were the Triple-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins at the time).

Let’s take a look at his career, which began right here in Charlotte…

In 1995, at the young age of 20, Hernandez, a successful baseball player from Cuba, defected to the United States in search of a job in Major League Baseball. He got one with the Florida Marlins — signing with the club in 1996.

The 6’2″ right-hander, who was a hot commodity, and talk of the baseball world, pitched for the Charlotte Knights in 1996.

That season, Hernandez posted a 2-4 record with a 5.14 ERA in 10 games for the Knights. His presence on the mound, along with his defection from Cuba, brought much hype to the Knights and Minor League Baseball. 

Quick Fact
: In 1996, Hernandez played for Knights manager Sal Rende, (pictured; right) who is currently the hitting coach of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. 

While Hernandez won just two games over his 10 starts that year, it was the start of a succesful career for the young Cuban hurler.

A year later (1997), Hernadez improved in Charlotte and posted a 5-3 mark with a 3.98 ERA in 14 games for the Knights.

In June of that year, Hernandez, who already got a taste of the Majors in 1996 (appeared in one game), joined the Marlins for good. He excelled at the Major League level in 1997 and would later finish in second place of the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

In 17 starts for the Fish that year, Hernandez posted a 9-3 record and a 3.18 ERA. More importanly, he helped lead the club into the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Hernandez was sharp in the postseason, especially in the World Series — winning both Game 1 and Game 5. His solid pitching helped give the Marlins a World Series win over the Cleveland Indians. For his efforts, Hernandez was named World Series MVP.

Over the years, Hernandez proved to be one of the most reliable pitchers in the game. He tossed 200 innings or more 10 times over a 12-year period. FACT: The other two years he tossed 199.2 innings pitched.

In 2004 and 2005, Hernandez was a National League All-Star while pitching for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.

He pitched for eight teams over his 16-year career. And, while he has always had success, he will always be remembered for going from Charlotte to Florida and winning a World Series MVP in the same season. It’s hard to believe that was almost 15 years ago!

Good luck to Livan as he vies for a spot in the Astros rotation this spring.

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