If it was only up to Jose Fernandez, he would be back on the mound for the Marlins when the season starts in April. Based on the advice of his doctors, though, the return of the injured race will likely wait until mid-July, right after the All-Star break.
“I want to pitch tomorrow in the big leagues. Are you kidding me?,” Fernandez said Friday as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. “That’s who I am.”
But Fernandez said doctors have given him a target date of July 16, or nearly 14 months after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right arm.
“I think July 16 is the day the doctor said,” Fernandez said. “Honestly, who knows when I’m going to come back? I think that goes on how I feel. I’m really not going to have a date until five days before that start.”
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Actually, July 16 is the last off day before the Marlins return from the All-Star break to begin the second half of the season. But it is the outside date the Marlins have projected his return.
Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said in a radio interview last week that Fernandez, the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2013, could return to competition anywhere from about June 15 to July 16.
For now, the 22-year-old Fernandez said he is trying to remain patient and stick to the rehab plan outlined for him by the Marlins’ training staff even though his competitive juices leave him thirsting to pitch sooner than that.
“I think you’ve got to be smart,” he said. “You’ve got to take care of your arm. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to slow it down. I just want to follow the plan the way it is.”
Fernandez, who is now throwing off flat ground from a distance of 150 feet, said he expects to begin throwing off a mound the first week of March. He has begun throwing a breaking ball and said his arm feels great.
“I haven’t felt anything in my arm at all,” he said. “It’s funny because it feels like I never had a surgery.”
Even without Fernandez in their rotation to start the season, the Marlins aren’t lacking for starters. That’s because veteran right-hander Dan Haren, whose status with the club has remained uncertain ever since the Marlins acquired him in a December trade with the Dodgers, said he is committed to pitching in Miami.
“I’m happy to be here,” Haren said.
Haren’s desires have been unclear since the trade. He told ESPN.com in November, about a month before the trade, that he would rather retire than pitch anywhere other than the West Coast.
Haren said Friday he never demanded that the Marlins trade him to a West Coast team and that after he got over the initial shock of the trade, discussed it in an hour-long phone call with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, and talked it over with family, he was committed to pitching in Miami.
“The trade, it surprised me for sure,” Haren said. “I definitely considered retiring. But I think a lot of things were probably overblown. I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent committed. I didn’t want to put in any less effort. Once I was committed in the offseason to putting in the work, I was ready to go.”
Haren met privately Friday morning with manager Mike Redmond.
“We talked for a long time and he’s in,” Redmond said. “He’s focused on helping us win. He explained to me kind of what happened. As far as I’m concerned, we’re moving on from that.”
Said Haren of the offseason uncertainty: “I felt like I was kind of portrayed as being snobby or stuck up. It was really kind of the opposite. It kind of drug out a little longer than I would have liked. There was also times during the offseason where I wanted to say something, and things sometimes got misconstrued a bit through the media. Sometimes after the holidays, I let them know I was ready to go.”