MIAMI — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson had no doubt who should win the National League Rookie of the Year Award: Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez.
“To me, he’s a shoo-in to win Rookie of the Year,” Johnson said before his team faced Fernandez in Friday night’s opener of a weekend series. “I know there are a lot of other good young pitchers out there … good players … but I think he’d be the odds-on pick right now.
“He’d get my vote. I like him, he’s competitive. He might be a little too fiery for me — he might give me a little trouble with some of his emotions, but I like that. It’s good.”
Fernandez entered Friday night’s start with a 10-6 record and 2.33 ERA for the last-place Marlins. He was NL Rookie of the Month for both July and August and leads the majors with opposing batters hitting just .186.
Other NL ROY contenders include outfielder Yasiel Puig and left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller.
Johnson was New York Mets manager in 1984 when Dwight Gooden won the NL ROY Award after going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA.
Gooden pitched 218 innings that first year. Fernandez might have one more start remaining next week before the Marlins end his season due to a team-imposed limit of 170 innings.
“I’m glad they’re shutting him down after 170 innings,” said Johnson, who last year watched as Washington ace Stephen Strasburg’s season ended early due to an innings limit. “When I had Dwight at 19, he had already pitched 200 innings (actually 191) the year before at (Class A) Lynchburg.
“So the next year at 19 in the big leagues, there was no problem on innings.”
Johnson, a coach on this year’s NL All-Star team, was in the dugout when Fernandez pitched a dominating inning by retiring the AL in order with two strikeouts.
“Everybody was excited, it was nice,” Johnson said. “It’s part of it.
“I really like him. He’s got a great arm, he’s got real good command a lot like Gooden. He’s not intimidated, he makes his pitches and he’s been giving quality starts.”