Jose Fernandez recalls 'amazing' All-Star experience
JUL 18, 2013 5:52p ET
Fernandez, 20, had not known the Cincinnati Reds closer, 25, when both were in their native land. Here was an opportunity for the two pitchers to get familiar with each other and exchange defection stories.
"The last thing we wanted to talk about was how we came here from Cuba," Fernandez said Thursday afternoon before Miami worked out at Marlins Park. "We wanted to enjoy the moment."
That they did.
Fernandez pitched a perfect sixth inning and Chapman threw a scoreless seventh in a losing effort as the American League defeated the National League 3-0 on Tuesday night.
During what he called "an amazing experience," the Marlins ace learned he would start the sixth an inning earlier. He took the mound ready to face former MVP Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox), Triple Crown winner and former MVP Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) and current major league home run leader Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles).
"I know the names; I know they're good hitters," Fernandez said.
Perhaps, but Fernandez retired all three, striking out Pedroia and Davis with a Cabrera foul out in between. The rookie threw 13 pitches (nine strikes), reaching 98 mph three times against ex-Marlin Cabrera.
"I was paying attention the first three innings of the game, so I saw how they were pitched to, and I saw their approach," Fernandez said when asked about his game plan. "I think everybody's approach in an All-Star Game is the same approach — the hitters want to go first pitch and if they see a fastball, they're going to hack at it.
"I was trying to go with my best stuff and put it in a good location — that as the most important part."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond watched Fernandez's performance while enjoying the All-Star break with former teammate Mike Lowell and their families in Bimini.
"I was excited for Jose to get in the game," Redmond said. "After that first pitch, he looked good, he looked comfortable. He looked the same. Emotion wise, you never know until you get him in that situation, but his stuff was just nasty.
"I haven't gotten to watch him much on TV because I see him in person, but his stuff on TV was nasty."
While others raved about him, Fernandez enjoyed discussing other All-Star highlights.
"I got to watch (Philadelphia's) Cliff Lee warming up on the same team, and that was fun," Fernandez said. "A few innings later he said, 'Go do your thing.' That was pretty special."
The Marlins right-hander also spoke with Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, who played against Fernandez in last year's Futures Game, and with fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics. Before Monday's Home Run Derby, compatriots Fernandez, Chapman and Cespedes were seen speaking at length on the field.
A week earlier, Fernandez said he looked forward to meeting New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Boston designated hitter David Ortiz at the game. He did meet Cano, but not "Big Papi."
"Papi didn't stretch with the team," said Fernandez, who left New York with a jersey and bat autographed bat by the entire NL team.
There also were special moments away from Citi Field.
"There was a room for my mom and a room for me, but we stayed in the same room," said Fernandez, who added he also went shopping with his mother. "We talked to 2 or 3 in the morning every day — it was incredible."
Fernandez said he had about 50 congratulatory post-game texts on his cell phone and he responded to every one. As of Thursday afternoon, he still hadn't spoken to his grandmother in Cuba.
Among the memories he'll likely tell his grandma is the eighth-inning tribute to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
"It was incredible. I think he deserves that and more than that," Fernandez said. "Everybody respects him in the game. Everybody knows who he is, and he's consistent. That's what you want to be in this game — you want to be respected and you want to go out there and do what you do. I really look up to him.
"I was inside the clubhouse with some other players, and everybody came out to see that. The fans were incredible. I think that really was one of the best things … I think that was the best part of my experience at the All-Star Game."
Charlie McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.