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01/11/11 2:04 PM EST

Livan likely to get Nats' Opening Day nod

WASHINGTON -- If the Nationals don't make significant moves to improve their starting pitching, Livan Hernandez will be their Opening Day starter, MLB.com has learned.

The Nationals' first regular-season game of the 2011 season will be March 31 against the Braves at Nationals Park.

If an ace pitcher is not acquired by then, Hernandez would be in line to make his fourth Opening Day start in a Nationals/Expos uniform. He had the honor from 2004-06. Manager Jim Riggleman and general manager Mike Rizzo were not available for comment.

Hernandez would become the fourth pitcher in Nationals history to get the Opening Day nod. John Patterson (2007), Odalis Perez ('08) and John Lannan ('09-10) are the others.

Outside of right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who will start the upcoming season on the disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Hernandez was Washington's best starting pitcher in 2010, going 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA in 33 starts. It was his 10th 30-start, 200-inning season. Among active pitchers, only Andy Pettitte (10) and Mark Buehrle (10) have as many 30-start, 200-inning seasons.

Hernandez also owns several organization firsts, including throwing the first pitch in the history of the Washington franchise (April 4, 2005, against the Phillies in Philadelphia) and at home (April 14, 2005, against the D-backs), marking the return of baseball to Washington, D.C. after a 33-year absence. Hernandez was also the team's first All-Star selection.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.