PHILADELPHIA -- Jose Fernandez was ecstatic after being formally introduced Friday to his major-league pitching idol, Phillies lefty Cliff Lee, even though their pitching styles are not at all alike.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know why you’re my favorite pitcher because we don’t have the same stuff,’ ” Fernandez said. “And he was looking at me like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ He goes about his business, doesn’t care about anything else. I just like the way that he pitches.”
Among other things, Lee also does something with a regularity that Fernandez longs to emulate: finish what he starts. Over the past five seasons, only Philadelphia teammate Roy Halladay has totaled more complete games than Lee.
With the Marlins keeping a short leash on Fernandez to further the development of their 20-year-old prodigy, the young pitcher’s recent outings have been brief, which has put a strain on the bullpen.
He’ll be taking the mound for the Marlins on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park for his sixth big-league start.
Fernandez was lifted from his previous start after throwing 81 pitches in only four innings of a game that ended up going 15 innings.
Fernandez has thrown no fewer than 79 pitches — but no more than 85 — in any of his five starts so far this season.
“I think we’ll bump him up a little bit here as we go,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
“We have a plan. We’ve just been kind of playing it by ear.”
The Marlins intend to limit Fernandez to anywhere from 150 to 180 innings this season, and Fernandez understands their logic.
“If they give me 200 pitches a game, I’m going to take that,” Fernandez said. “If they give me 120, I’m going to take that, too. But I respect everything they’re doing, and I’m pretty happy with how things are going. They know what’s best for the team. I don’t ask.”
Catcher Jeff Mathis played five innings Thursday in what was his first rehab game for Single A Jupiter. But it could be a while before he gets the green light to join the Marlins.
“He didn’t have any spring training,” Redmond said. “He got hurt [broken collarbone] the very first game of spring, and so he never got a chance to get going. Being a catcher, you’ve got to have your legs under you and be able to catch nine innings.”
Mathis is permitted up to 20 days’ rehab time with a minor-league club.
• Redmond said catcher Rob Brantly remains a work in progress. “I think there’s some days where he looks real good, and he’s had a couple of rough days, too, where his receiving is a little bit shaky and seems to be a little unsure, and we have to take a few extra trips to the mound,” Redmond said. “But he’s only 23 years old.”
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Fernandez (0-2, 4.50 ERA) at Philadelphia Phillies LHP Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.78), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (0-2, 2.15) at Phillies RHP Halladay (2-3, 6.75), 2:35 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
• Scouting report: Starting with his outing in Miami on April 13, Hamels has given up seven earned runs over his past four starts covering 27 innings. In his career against the Marlins, Hamels is 8-10 with a 3.29 ERA in 25 starts.