Hernandez can pitch for Puerto Rico in Classic

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Major League Baseball has confirmed Cuban pitcher Livan Hernandez could be eligible to play for Puerto Rico in next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic.

The Washington Nationals ace has expressed interest in playing for Puerto Rico, telling local media in October "it would be a pleasure and something very important to me" to represent the U.S. Caribbean territory.

MLB spokesman Mike Teevan said Sunday the rules allow Hernandez to request permission to play for a team other than his native Cuba.

"If he wants to pitch for a country other than Cuba, he'll have
to make request explaining why he wants to pitch for another team
and not his country of origin," Teevan told The Associated Press.

Hernandez, who defected from Cuba in 1995 and helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series two years later, has a house in Puerto
Rico and owns a local professional women's volleyball team.

Cuba hasn't said if it will participate in the World Baseball

The 16-nation, 18-day tournament will start on March 3 in Asia, where Group A will include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

If Hernandez were to play for Puerto Rico, he would be a big help to a team expected to be flush with offensive power but short on strong pitching.

Hernandez had a 15-10 record and a 3.98 ERA in 35 starts for Washington last season.

Puerto Rico will host first- and second-round games at Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan, the site of some Montreal Expos home
games in 2003 and 2004.