Jose Fernandez’s final tune-up before Opening Night turned out to be his roughest start of the spring.
Yanked after throwing 98 pitches (58 for strikes) in only 4 2/3 innings, Fernandez gave up nine hits, five runs (four earned) before the Marlins rallied to beat the Cardinals 6-5 on Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium.
“Hopefully six days from now it’s going to be better,” said Fernandez, who in five starts this spring (20 1/3 innings) posted a 3.54 ERA with 19 strikeouts and eight walks.
“I was trying to throw strikes and I couldn’t. That’s been a problem the whole spring training. I pray for the season not to be like that.”
A year ago, Fernandez was in line to start the season in Double A Jacksonville.
Then, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez went down with shoulder injuries, opening the door for the National League’s eventual Rookie of the Year to find a spot in the big-league rotation.
Now 21 and an All-Star, Fernandez is hardly the same quiet kid he was a year ago. He has shown up to camp in purple pants and gold shoes, and recently had a tattoo of a bicycle gear inked on his lower right leg.
He said he would like to post an ERA lower than 2.00 this season and has been intense even before Grapefruit League starts, saying it has been tough to sleep.
How does he envision his emotions being before Opening Night? Not the same as his ho-hum debut at the Mets a year ago.
“I think it’s going to be maybe more like the [Aug. 19] game against the Dodgers [and Yasiel Puig] at home,” Fernandez said. “I’ll try to sleep.”
REED MAKES TEAM
It won’t be officially announced by the team until the Marlins make some corresponding personnel moves, but 37-year-old veteran outfielder Reed Johnson has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.
A nonroster invitee who spent the past six years in the National League beating up on the Marlins, Johnson had until noon Tuesday to either find a spot on the team or be released per his contract.
The Marlins — who still have minor league options available for 23-year old Marcell Ozuna and 22-year old Jake Marisnick — opted to sign Johnson, who has been red-hot at the plate this spring (.410, HR, 6 RBI), is a good pinch-hitter (.288 career in 238 at-bats) and has always hit lefties well (.311 career hitter).
“I know [manager Mike Redmond has] seen me play, being in Atlanta and in the East, but I think it was still big for me to come in and hit from start to finish and let them know I still have a lot of gas in the tank,” Johnson said.
“The way I was treated here, too, was really key to me having a successful spring training.”
President of baseball operations Mike Hill said Johnson falls in line with the team’s push to sign veterans with playoff pedigree.
How the Marlins plan to use Johnson remains to be determined. Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are locked into two of the outfield spots.
With Ozuna (.180) struggling at the plate this spring and the left-handed hitting Brian Bogusevic (acquired in the Justin Ruggiano trade) out of options, the Marlins will likely opt for a rotation in left field. Odds are it will be Bogusevic, utility man Jeff Baker and Johnson splitting time.
Two sENT DOWN
The Marlins decided to whittle down the fight for bullpen jobs by sending right-handers Arquimedes Caminero and Carter Capps (acquired in the Logan Morrison trade) down to Triple A New Orleans. Chaz Roe (12.38 ERA this spring) was also reassigned to the minors.
Caminero, who posted a 2.00 ERA, two saves, a 0.44 WHIP (nine strikeouts, one walk, three hits) and had opponents hit just .100 against him this spring, was the most surprising move.
But with minor-league options remaining for both him and Capps, Hill said the Marlins felt it was smart to stash “major-league capable arms” down in the minors and keep a few players without those options around the big-league team.
“Extremely tough calls, but I think what we discussed internally is that it’s a good thing for us,” Hill said. “Caminero came through our system, made tremendous strides, had a tremendous spring training. To look him in the eye and tell him he’s going down was a difficult conversation.”
COMING UP• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 2.19 ERA) vs. Braves RHP Julio Teheran (0-1, 1.42), 1:05 p.m. Lake Buena Vista.
• Thursday: Marlins LHP Brad Hand (2-1, 3.38) vs. Cardinals TBA, 1:05 p.m. Jupiter.