Even on basepaths, Jose Fernandez looking to make his mark
MIAMI — Jose Fernandez wants to do everything.
Pitch perfect games. Hit. Score runs. Steal bases.
"He’s the ultimate perfectionist," Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "Jose, on his day, he’s all in. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win that ballgame."
In Fernandez’s second start of the season, a 5-0 triumph over the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park Saturday night, the player who does the work of a yeoman during the offseason — biking 600 miles a week, chopping wood, pushing trucks — wanted nothing more than to carry the Marlins on his back.
With the score deadlocked in the third inning, Fernandez on second and Giancarlo Stanton at the plate, the Marlins starting pitcher started to make his move toward third. Stanton, however, smacked a sharp grounder that deflected off Padres third baseman Chase Headley and bounced into left field, and Fernandez hustled around the basepaths to score.
When he returned to the dugout, the 21-year-old told his manager he was trying to steal third.
"I said, ‘Come on, man, that’s not your job. I want you to stay out there and when the ball is hit, I want you to run.’ " Redmond said, laughing. "But that’s the beauty of Jose. He’s always thinking."
Thinking of everything he can possibly do to win — including stealing a base.
"Why not? They’re giving it to me. Why not? Take it," Fernandez said. "But Stanton was hitting, so. I don’t want to get hit hard on third base. Whatever they give you, you take. That’s what I was taught when I started playing."
After 6 2/3 innings, having allowed no runs, three hits and striking out eight — and scoring what would turn out to be the winning run — little else could be asked of the Marlins ace.
Despite striking out three of the four batters he faced in the second, he left the mound with extra fire for not getting the 1-2-3 inning. Pushed to a pitch limit of 108, he showed frustration when Redmond pulled him for reliever A.J. Ramos.
In the seventh, Fernandez got the first two batters to fly out and struck out Alexi Amarista, but the outfielder reached base when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia overthrew the bag, keeping the inning alive.
"His slider was so effective tonight," Saltalamacchia said. "Guys knew it was coming and it was pretty tough to lay off of. I think he wanted to finish that inning, but with a bullpen like ours, go ahead and hand it off. He got us to where we needed to be. Once we got that one run, we had a good chance."
As Redmond explained, Fernandez’s pitch count had reached its limit.
"We wanted to extend him out a little bit more, make sure he’s able to go 105-110 down the road, but that was about max." Redmond said. "That was pushing it."
Fernandez kept his gaze to the ground as he approached the dugout until he reached teammate Reed Johnson. The veteran stopped him with words of encouragement.
"After the strikeout I got, [Johnson] told me, ‘You did a great job. You got the outs. Let us finish.’ " Fernandez said. "Obviously I wanted to go out there and keep competing. That’s what [he said when] he was kind of talking to me — ‘You did a great job today, take it easy.’
"It means a lot when all the guys come up to you and they tell you, ‘Hey, I’ve been here a long time and seen that happen.’ "
Miami added four more runs over the next three innings, with Fernandez watching and cheering from the dugout.
The moment grounded Fernandez on Saturday night.
But it is hard to imagine that carrying over to the ace’s next start.