DETROIT -- Ex-Tiger Guillermo Hernandez said that he not only welcomed Jose Valverde breaking his franchise record for consecutive saves, but he actually prayed for him to do it. After more than a quarter-century with that mark, he said that it was time.
"God bless him," Hernandez said, "because it was a record that I had for a long time. 27 years I had that record. And somebody [else] had to have it, because I'm out of baseball. I'm a Christian, and as soon as somebody told me that he may break my record, I said, 'Well, God bless him.'"
The Tigers brought back Hernandez this weekend to honor him at Comerica Park as part of their Fiesta Tigres celebration. Every Latin Tigers player joined him in a pregame ceremony, complete with a portrait honoring Hernandez's award-winning 1984 season and a watch presented by current Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit.
Hernandez was also at Comerica Park for batting practice on Friday, which gave him a chance to meet the current closer whose 35 consecutive saves topped his mark from 1984.
"I talked to him yesterday, and I told him what happened," Hernandez said. "I prayed for him. I prayed for his family. And he told me now that he knows all the sentiments, he thanked me very much for that. He's a good kid. God bless him. He's got the potential to be around for a long time."
It's a different role for closers now than when Hernandez was playing. Hernandez went 32-for-32 in save chances before blowing his final opportunity that year, long after the Tigers had clinched a division title. Twenty of those saves required more than three outs, including five three-inning saves and a four-inning save. Hernandez won the Cy Young Award that season.
Hernandez understands. Once closers became highly-valued players with long-term contracts, he said, their longevity became more important.