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.
Hester hopes to make most of playing time
PHOENIX -- John Hester not only assumed Chris Snyder's corner locker in the Chase Field home clubhouse on Monday, he also replicated Snyder's knack for relaying the well-timed one-liner.
Asked to confirm how many Elmer Dessens pitches he saw before homering on Sunday -- his first game since being recalled on Saturday shortly after the trade of Snyder -- Hester joked, "I lost count."
It was actually offering No. 12, long after falling behind the Mets' Dessens, 0-2.
Was it a sign of a different Hester as hitter? Arizona sure hopes so.
After what Hester called a "disappointing two months" -- in his second Major League callup from April 11 to June 12, he batted .188 (9-for-48) -- he got hot at Triple-A Reno, batting .436 with four long balls and 12 RBIs over his last 10 games for the Aces.
Hester said playing on a daily basis and fine-tuning his timing in the batter's box contributed to his Minor League success.
"I was just down in Triple-A playing my game and trying to make sure I was getting better every single day, and if [a trade] happened, I'll take advantage," Hester said. "Thankfully, it did.
"Hopefully I can prove that I belong here."
His second first impression was a good step toward that aim. In addition to lifting his second Major League home run and going 2-for-3 overall the plate, Hester also paired with newly acquired Daniel Hudson -- a former White Sox farmhand Hester said he had never heard of -- to form a more than competent battery. Hudson, who arrived on Friday in exchange for veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson, allowed one Mets run on three hits over eight innings.
"I was very impressed with his first outing," said Hester, who also complimented Hudson's fastball command. "I also let him know, 'I've never caught you before, so if you're not comfortable with the pitch I'm calling, shake me off; it's fine.'"
The tentative plan for recovering D-backs relief pitcher Leo Rosales (stress fracture in right foot): throw two more bullpen sessions this week; face live hitters on Aug. 11; and, if all is well, head out on a Minor League rehab assignment the ensuing weekend. "My legs aren't game-ready yet," said Rosales, who previously wore crutches and a protective boot, but is now walking without either. ... Outfielder Ryan Church, one of three players acquired from the Pirates on Saturday, will join the D-backs on Tuesday. The club will have to drop a position player from its active roster; infielders Tony Abreu and Augie Ojeda are the likely choices. ... Interim manager Kirk Gibson said the key to halting the Nationals' offense is keeping leadoff man Nyjer Morgan from reaching base. Morgan entered Monday 10-for-23 with a home run all-time against the D-backs. ... Reserves Rusty Ryal and Bobby Crosby took early fielding practice before Monday's game.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.