MARLINS NOTEBOOK

Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez seeking road-warrior effect

 

cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

It’s hard to find many faults with Jose Fernandez, who has emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the majors. But if there’s one kink in the 21-year-old’s armor, it’s been his lack of success pitching in road parks.

After being battered Friday in a 10-1 loss to the Padres, one in which he surrendered a pair of home runs for the first time in his career, Fernandez said he needs to learn how to become a road warrior.

“I’ve got to figure that out because I’m not going to pitch at home all the time,” Fernandez said after the rough outing, one in which the Padres — the worst-hitting team in the majors — got to him for six runs (five earned) in five innings of work.

Fernandez has been impeccable in 20 career starts at Marlins Park, where he has gone 12-0 with a 1.09 ERA. But it has been another story entirely on the road, where he is 4-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 15 starts.

“You’ve got to learn how to win on the road, too,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “Part of the process of learning to pitch in the big leagues is going on the road and bringing that same energy and same focus that you do at home.”

Fernandez might have had an excuse. He acknowledged Saturday that he was throwing up before Friday’s outing after eating a steak that didn’t sit well with him. But he added that his stomach felt fine from the second inning on.

Fernandez is 4-2 and both losses have come on the road, where he has given up 11 of his 14 earned runs in only half the innings he has pitched this season.

On Friday, he not only gave up a solo homer to Jedd Gyorko, but also a grand slam to the second baseman for the Padres. It marked the first time he had given up as many as two home runs in a game, and the grand slam was the first he has allowed in 35 major-league starts.

During one three-pitch sequence in the second inning, Fernandez gave up the solo blast to Gyorko, a fly ball to the warning track in center and a double off the wall.

Gyorko said the Padres’ game plan against Fernandez, who held them to only three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings last month in Miami, was to go on the attack early in the count.

“We didn’t want to get the curve,” Gyorko said. “That was going to be the approach: jump on the heater early.”

Fernandez acknowledged afterward that he didn’t recognize the Padres’ game plan soon enough.

About the sequence in which the Padres produced three deep drives on successive pitches, Fernandez said: “I felt like they were not good pitches. They were first-pitch fastballs.

“That was their plan and, obviously, I didn’t see it early enough.”

Fernandez also did not have his fastball working for him and shied away from it as the outing progressed — or regressed, in Friday’s case.

Not only did his fastball lack its usual zip, but he went to it only twice over his final two innings. Gyorko hit one of those — a 93-mph offering — for his grand slam.

“Mostly my stuff wasn’t there, my fastball wasn’t there,” Fernandez said.

Draft studies

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill on Friday checked out San Diego-area prep left-hander Brady Aiken, who is regarded as one of the two or three top players in the June amateur draft.

The Marlins have the second overall pick.

Others being considered: North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon and Shepherd (Texas) high school lefty Tyler Kolek.

The Houston Astros have the first pick.

Road struggles

The Marlins totaled only nine hits in their first two games in San Diego, lowering their road batting average to .203 -- second-lowest in the majors. They have struck out 27 times in the first two games, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out four times on Thursday and Garrett Jones did the same Friday.

“Maybe we’re trying too hard on the road,” Redmond said. “I’ve seen us get out of our approach. We’ve sustained our approach really well at home, as far as swinging at strikes and taking walks. And for some reason, when we get on the road we’re not quite as patient.

“ Guys expand the strike zone and swing at pitches on counts they don’t normally swing at.”

Coming up

•  Sunday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-2, 2.62 ERA) at San Diego Padres LHP Robbie Erlin (1-4, 2.68), 4:10 p.m., Petco Park.

•  Monday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (3-2, 1.99) at Dodgers RHP Dan Haren (4-1, 2.68), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.

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