Jose to make closing argument on ROY case

Jose Fernandez making final start on Wednesday.

Jose Fernandez making final start on Wednesday.

MIAMI — All season, Jose Fernandez has dazzled Major League hitters with his blazing fastball, baffling breaking pitches and unwavering self confidence.

Few in the sport show as much fun, energy and enthusiasm as the Marlins’ 21-year-old right-hander.

Fernandez has become the face of the franchise as well as a serious frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year.

On Wednesday night, the curtain will come down on Fernandez’s remarkable season. The Marlins are shutting down their young ace after he faces the first-place Braves at Marlins Park.

Because of his age, inexperience, Fernandez entered the season knowing he was facing an innings maximum of around 170. A year ago, he threw 134 innings at Class A, plus another 10 in the playoffs. So the plan was to increase him by roughly 30 innings in ’13.

Fernandez enters tonight at 165 2/3 innings, but he is free to go as far as he can. If it’s six, seven or eight will depend on how he performs.

Wednesday also is an opportunity for Fernandez to make his closing argument as to why he should be the NL Rookie of the Year.

Will not pitching through the end of the month hurt Fernandez’s chances?

To some, it may. But it really shouldn’t.

Fernandez opened the season with the Marlins, and he will be making his 28th start. Barring an unexpected short outing on Wednesday, he will finish with more than 170 innings, and his numbers are worthy of being in the Cy Young Award discussion, even though he likely wouldn’t be the favorite.

In 2003, the Marlins called up Dontrelle Willis from Double-A, and the D-Train made 27 starts and threw 160 2/3 innings. Willis ended up winning NL Rookie of the Year.

Fernandez is having a rookie season for the ages. Consider, since 1980, the 21-year-old’s 2.33 ERA is the lowest of any MLB rookie. He also ranks first in batting average against at .181.

And Fernandez’s 182 strikeouts are the ninth most in the majors since that span.

Some have suggested Fernandez’s rookie season brings back memories of Dwight Gooden in his 1984 rookie season. Gooden that year was 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA, and 276 strikeouts in 218 innings.

Bottom line is being shut down shouldn’t weigh against Fernandez any more than rookies being called up in late May or early June to delay their service-time clock.

While Fernandez’s season will be through with 18 games for the Marlins to go, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was called up on June 3. Puig has appeared in 86 games.

Puig not playing the first two months shouldn’t hurt his chances any more than Fernandez sitting out 18 games.

In 2012, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were voted top rookies in their respective leagues. Both opened in the Minor Leagues and appeared in the big leagues for the first time on April 28.

Chris Coghlan in 2009 became the Marlins’ third Rookie of the Year. He started playing on May 8 of that season, and appeared in 128 games.

Willis was an All-Star and a major reason why the Marlins won the World Series in 2003. The D-Train made his MLB debut on May 9.

Fernandez certainly has performed long enough, and effective enough to not have the day he throws his final pitch work against him.

Joe Frisaro

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