Inside Pitch--Livan Off to a Quick Start

Livan Hernandez is mowing them down this spring

RHP Livan Hernandez says he never pitches well in spring training, though that clearly hasn't affected his performance in the regular season.

The Nationals are hoping the reverse won't hold true this year, because Hernandez has been lights-out so far this spring. The veteran right-hander put together his best performance to date on Tuesday, holding the Indians to one run on three hits while striking out five in Washington's 4-3 victory.

Using an assortment of four pitches, including a devastating slow curveball that kept Cleveland's batters off balance all afternoon, Hernandez retired 12 in a row to open the game. He departed having thrown 77 pitches, and having also impressed his manager.

"Vintage Livan Hernandez," gushed Frank Robinson. "That's pitching. He can throw any pitch at any time."

NOTES

--3B Vinny Castilla hasn't been getting a lot of playing time early this spring, but he's not doing much with his few at-bats. After an 0 for 4 performance Tuesday against the Indians, Castilla was batting .063 this spring (1 for 16) with one RBI.

--RHP Claudio Vargas (sore elbow) threw live batting practice for the first time this spring on Tuesday, but manager Frank Robinson said there's no rush to bring Vargas back. He'll start the season in the minors.

--RHP Francis Beltran underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., ending his season. Beltran, acquired last summer in the Orlando Cabrera-Nomar Garciaparra blockbuster, came to camp hoping to win a spot in the Nationals' bullpen but experienced elbow discomfort the first week of workouts and was immediately shut down.

--OF J.J. Davis is making a strong case for a spot on the Opening Day roster. A former top pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates who never panned out, Davis is batting .500 (8 for 16) this spring with three doubles, a triple and a homer.

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