Jose dominates, is he ready right now?
MIAMI — The fact Jose Fernandez is dominating Advanced Class A hitters in rehab assignment starts isn’t really shocking.
The bigger picture question here is do the Marlins believe Fernandez is ready right now to rejoin the big league roster, or is the plan to stay the course, and bring their 22-year-old ace back on July 2? Fernandez himself announced July 2, because it is how he was progressing. But unless that date is written with a Sharpie, it can be readjusted.
Because what Monday night revealed is Fernandez is ready right now. So why not bring him back this weekend to face the Dodgers at Marlins Park?
Any more proof was revealed on Monday at Roger Dean Stadium in the Hammerheads 4-1 win over the St. Lucie Mets. You don’t always pay too much attention to rehab performances. But Fernandez scattered four hits, gave up a run, struck out nine with one walk in seven innings. Enough said.
We don’t know yet if the Marlins are rethinking Fernandez’s return.
But this week, I do expect Miami to reinstate another starter currently on the DL. Right-hander Jarred Cosart, who has been out since mid-May due to vertigo, is expected back this week. So it isn’t just Fernandez the Marlins will have to slot into the rotation, Cosart also must be lined up.
As for Fernandez, from Day 1, the Marlins have been ultra careful. He’s been on strict pitch limits and throwing schedules, as he builds back from his Tommy John surgery. But let’s face it, he’s good to go.
When breaking down the performance Monday, two things stand out — 90 pitches and seven innings. I don’t care about the strikeouts. I expect them. He’s got command, velocity are there, and most importantly, he feels great.
What’s the goal in a fifth rehab start, which is set for Saturday at Double-A Jacksonville? To get him to 100 pitches? Let him do that this weekend, at Marlins Park against the Dodgers.
Fernandez’s velocity is there — touching 98 mph. He’s executing all his pitches. What’s left?
Fernandez already has made four rehab assignment starts, and logged 19 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 25 and walked four.
If the Marlins are treating this like Fernandez’s Spring Training, he’s already logged more innings than most Miami starters did back in March. Dan Haren, for instance, threw 18 innings in Spring Training games. Plus, Fernandez also threw 40-something pitches in an extended spring game leading into his four rehab starts.
At this point, bring him back now. Most likely, the Marlins are going to go five or six innings with him in his first start anyway.
One thing is for sure if the Marlins change plans with Fernandez, his next outing won’t be potentially impacted by weather.
With its roof, there is no threat of rain at Marlins Park this weekend. You can’t say the same with a fifth rehab start. If it rains at Jacksonville this weekend, then what? Have Fernandez throw 100 pitches off a mound in the cages?
On Sunday at Cincinnati, president of baseball operations Michael Hill said the team is considering going with a six-man rotation once Fernandez returns, but only through the All-Star Break. That makes more sense if Fernandez pitches Saturday or Sunday against the Dodgers than on July 2.
Either way, Fernandez is going to make just two starts before the Break. But with a six-man rotation, and a weekend return, Jose’s second start could then be lined up either July 11 or perhaps July 12, the day before the Midsummer Classic.
Under that scenario, he would be set to be on a five-day schedule and open the second half, at Philadelphia on July 17.
If he returns July 2, his next start would either be July 7-8. Do it that way, Fernandez would be waiting another eight or nine days for his first start after the Break. Jose doesn’t need that much time. He’s trying to get going, into a rhythm, not take a breather and then try to get sharp again.
Plus, the Marlins are hopeful to get back into the race, or be at least to .500 by Aug. 1. Fernandez’s return might be their last sign of hope. Get him going sooner than later. Besides, if they are out of it in September, the club could back off on how much they use their young ace down the stretch.
The way he looks at this point, Fernandez is ready to help the Marlins right now. So why wait?
— Joe Frisaro