Marlins' Fernandez throws for five scoreless innings in second rehab start
JUPITER, Fla. -- Eighty-three miles from his big-league teammates at Marlins Park, ace Jose Fernandez approached his second rehab start as if the opponent's jersey read Colorado or Los Angeles.
Wearing No. 44 rather than No. 16, Fernandez threw five scoreless innings for Single-A Jupiter against Port Charlotte on Friday night at Roger Dean Stadium. He allowed just two hits -- both singles -- with four strikeouts and one walk on 65 pitches (41 strikes), facing just one over the minimum.
The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Finalist bounced back from his first outing in which he surrendered five runs on eight hits, while striking out two batters and walking one in three innings against the Stone Crabs. On Friday, his pitch limit was 70 or five innings.
"I think the big part is being healthy," Fernandez said of the result. "I came out healthy, feel healthy. There's nothing else I can ask for. Same thing, a little different result. Obviously I changed a couple of things that I was working on different than the last game. I'm pretty happy because I feel happy, and that's the only thing I can ask for."
How did he do it?
By achieving his goal of throwing both his breaking ball and changeup consistently for strikes. He made it a point to try different pitches in different counts, particularly two changeups as the first pitch to left-handers. Fernandez's first pitch went for a strike to 12 of the 16 batters.
According to Marlins rehab pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal, Fernandez ranged from 94-98 mph on the radar gun with his fastball.
"I told him before the game, 'Have fun, be yourself, be happy-go-lucky, be a little bit cocky,'" Rosenthal said. "'Be that intimidator on the mound and have fun doing that.' And he did that. He mixed pitches, he was shaking his head yes like he normally did, threw a bad pitch and he was upset. I just think this was a huge step for him to go onto the next outing.
"He tried to throw hard last time. This time he didn't try to throw hard; it just came out like that. You saw the difference in the angle of pitches. Got contact on changeups down, fastballs down. Mixed pitches well."
In the first inning, center fielder Yefri Perez made a leaping grab on the leadoff batter. Fernandez struck out the next guy swinging and induced a 4-3 groundout. Fernandez threw another perfect frame in the second when he broke Jake Bauers' bat on a groundout to second before a strikeout looking and a flyout to center.
The 22-year-old righty allowed his first hit with two outs in the third following a check-swing strikeout and a pop-out to second. Braxton Lee singled to left on a 2-2 pitch and stole second. Down 2-0 in the count, Fernandez regrouped to get Dayron Varona to groundout to short to end the frame.
After a leadoff walk on a full count, Fernandez forced a 6-4-3 double play and a lineout to left to escape damage in the fourth. His defense helped him again in the fifth when catcher Chris Hoo threw out Marty Gantt, who singled to open the inning, trying to steal. Fernandez struck out the next batter swinging and got a pop-out to second to close out his performance.
If all goes according to plan, Fernandez will throw 80 pitches on Wednesday in Viera, Florida, against Single-A Brevard. He would line up for outings on June 22 and 27 as well. That could mean a return to the majors on July 2 at Marlins Park against the San Francisco Giants.
"I need these starts," Fernandez said. "It's not like I'm going to go out there and pitch in the big leagues today. I need these starts. They're really good, very nice to work on pitches and locations and different counts. You've got to give a lot of credit to those kids, man. They swing the bat really well.
"You hear the fans -- you hear the fans yelling -- and No. 1, that's different. That's good. That's always good. The lights at night, getting ready for the game, it's a routine. Since I woke up, I'm starting to do my routine, same one I do normally when I'm pitching during the season. Starting to get there. Feeling more comfortable every time out there. Thank God everything feels great.
"You got to be really careful with how you go about this. That's why they're rehab starts because they are starts you work on stuff and different things. I think the biggest point today is I was pitching like I was pitching against LA or against some big-league team. I was trying to get quick outs. I didn't give up many hits. Try to go out there, and the biggest picture here is I feel healthy. The result obviously is important, but the way that I feel is more important to me and what these rehab starts are for."