JoFz Mania brings back memories of the D-Train

MIAMI — “Jose Mania” continues to build.

Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ rookie sensation, takes the mound on Friday night in the series opener against the red-hot Cleveland Indians, riding a season-best eight-game winning streak.

Fernandez, who turned 21 on Wednesday, is garnering more and more attention with every outing.

In many ways, the passion Fernandez is creating rivals when Dontrelle Willis broke on the big league scene as a 21-year-old in 2003.

“He’s similiar,” said Juan Pierre, who witnessed both pitchers. “Jose is a high-energy guy. He brings out a few more fans to the game when he was on the mound. Dontrelle, he brought everybody to the game when he pitched. So there are a lot of similarities.

“Being young and energetic — running off the field, staying in the dugout after he comes out of the game, signing autographs. He’s always upbeat with the fans. It’s refreshing to see, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003, “D-Train Mania” was the rage, as the left-hander energized the Marlins on his way to receiving NL Rookie of the Year honors.

While the 2013 Marlins are a young team with emerging, young talent, Fernandez has been a spark to the club’s turnaround after going 14-41 in April and May. Since then, the Marlins are 28-24.

Fernandez has been a big part of the team’s improvement.

Like Willis, Fernandez was named an All-Star as a rookie.

Fernandez also is putting himself in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year. Chances are, he is a long shot, largely because the Marlins plan on shutting him down when he gets close to 170 innings.

In his first 20 starts, Fernandez has 119 2/3 innings. His 124 strikeouts match St. Louis’ Shelby Miller for most among NL Rookies.

If Fernandez averages seven innings over his next six starts, chances are he will be shut down at just over 160 innings in late August.

Fernandez’s 2.71 ERA is the lowest among rookie NL starters.

Pierre is impressed with how Fernandez has handled himself at such a young age.

“He was probably a little more reserved before that, because he was new,” Pierre said. “Now, he is more like, everybody knows him and his personality. It’s fun to watch.”

Joe Frisaro

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