PHOENIX -- D-backs interim skipper Kirk Gibson has fond memories of Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez, harkening back to when Gibson the bench coach and Hernandez the Arizona starter teamed up during the 2007 postseason.
Gibson recalled Hernandez countering the Cubs in that season's National League Divisional Series, escaping multiple loaded-bases situations, including one in particular: when former Cub Ryan Theriot was ahead in the count, 3-0, but still fell victim to Hernandez's better-late-than-never histrionics. (On that Oct. 6 day, Hernandez walked five Cubs, but yielded just one run over six innings and picked up the win.)
"He's a master," Gibson gushed. "He's got great command, and he knows how to navigate through the lineup.
"Above all, he's one of the better teammates I've ever seen as a coach."
As for facing Hernandez, the Nats' starter Monday, Gibson also marveled at his not-so-speedy curveball, a pitch opposing hitters tend to "jump at."
"As a hitter -- when you see it, you take your step -- you're expecting 90 [mph]," Gibson said. "It's probably going to come in there around 60 [mph], maybe even slower. So as you get your foot down, you've got to sit there and wait and try not to let the energy build up in your body."
In his last start, Wednesday against the Braves, Hernandez's breaking ball was clocked as low as 63 mph, or about 20 notches slower than his mid-80-mph fastball.
Hernandez, who went 15-16 as a D-back during parts of the 2006 and '07 regular seasons, wasn't available to reporters prior to Monday's series opener; as a matter of practice, starting pitchers don't speak to the media before the games they start on the mound.