Hernandez relishes first save of 17-year career
DENVER (AP) For a few moments, a bemused Livan Hernandez didn't know what was behind all the celebratory high-fives coming his way from his Atlanta Braves teammates.
Told in the aftermath of a 13-9 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night that he had earned the first save of his 17-year career, the longtime starter turned long reliever broke into a wide grin.
"I'd never been in that situation," Hernandez said. "I found out about it after the game. I said, `What?' But that's nice. I enjoyed it. It's very cool to close a game with strikeouts."
Hernandez got five outs, fanning two of the last three batters he faced in his 11th career relief appearance.
"Good for him. He was able to close the game, got his first save ever. I hope he doesn't get a big ego and declare himself the closer," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez joked.
No need to worry about that, Hernandez said.
"That was my first one and maybe it'll be my last one. I don't think I'll be saving another game," said Hernandez, who signed with the Braves on March 30, one day after he was released by Houston.
The right-hander was slotted as the long man in Atlanta's bullpen. The role is a new one for Hernandez, a two-time All-Star who was the 1997 World Series MVP as a rookie with Florida. He has 474 career starts and was a member of the Washington Nationals' rotation as recently as early last season.
The Braves said Hernandez became the first major leaguer to earn his initial save after making that many starts since Frank Tanana saved Detroit's victory over the New York Yankees on Aug. 2, 1990, after 512 starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Steve Carlton made the most starts (687) before earning his first (and only) save by throwing four scoreless innings to preserve a 14-3 victory for fellow Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and the Cleveland Indians over the Toronto Blue Jays on April 9, 1987.
Updated May 6, 2012