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As a 20-year old phenom, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez took the baseball world by storm by earning the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Award with a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 187 K/58 BB in 172.2 IP. Big things were expected of him in 2014 and he showed much of the same in 8 starts to begin the season with a 4-2 record, 2.44 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 70 K/13 BB in 51.2 IP. But after that 8th start, it was learned that he would have to undergo Tommy John surgery, breaking the hearts of fantasy owners around the nation and Marlins fans…errr, nowhere.
A few weeks ago, the Marlins tabbed July 2 as the date that the now 22-year old Fernandez would take the mound in a Major League game for the first time in nearly 14 months. And for the most part, his rehab went pretty well so it was expected that Fernandez would step right in and make an immediate impact for the Fish.
So the day finally came on Thursday in front of the home crowd and it didn’t get off to such a hot start as Fernandez gave up 3 hits and a sacrifice fly in the 1st inning to fall behind 2-0. However, he settled down after that to allow a total of 3 runs on 7 hits and 0 walks in 6 innings while striking out 6. He also helped his own cause by smashing his 2nd career HR off Matt Cain, and he admired it for a few seconds before beginning to round the bases, giving Cain a good glare as he rounded first base. Fernandez hit the upper 90’s on the radar gun multiple times, getting as high as 99 MPH, and his average fastball velocity was right in line with what it was before the Tommy John surgery, which is obviously a great indication that he’s feeling great.
What we need to watch for though is how his command and control are in the next few starts. Pitchers in their first year back from Tommy John surgery tend to struggle in that area, especially when it’s just around 12-14 months after their last Major League game (as opposed to the 19-20 months that Matt Harvey had). However, Fernandez had good control to begin with, so any possible struggle wouldn’t take away too much from his game.
For the rest of the season, I’ll give Fernandez a line of 6 W-3 L, 3.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 88 K/25 BB in 80 IP.
Now let’s look at the rest of Thursday’s action!