The Marlins received devastating news Monday when Jose Fernandez, their 21-year-old pitching ace, was diagnosed with a right elbow sprain that the team fears will require season-ending surgery, sources say.
The concern within the organization is that Fernandez will require Tommy John surgery to replace the injured ligament. If that proves to be the case, the earliest Fernandez could be expected to pitch again is sometime next season.
“It’s a very difficult day for all of us,’’ said agent Scott Boras, who was with the pitcher when he was examined Monday.
The Marlins took the immediate step of placing Fernandez on the 15-day disabled list. Whether the injury results in surgery has yet to be determined.
After being examined in Los Angeles on Monday by the Dodgers’ team physician, Fernandez flew back to Miami to receive a second opinion from Dr. Lee Kaplan, the Marlins’ team physician.
Manager Mike Redmond said full results should be known within the next two days.
“It’s a big blow,” Redmond said on Monday in a hastily called news conference inside the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium. “I think you’re always concerned [about the possibility of Tommy John surgery] when you’re talking about an elbow. That’s just something we have to wait to find out.”
Said Giancarlo Stanton, Fernandez’s teammate: “It’s huge, obviously.”
Fernandez was roughed up by the Padres in San Diego on Friday, surrendering two home runs for the first time in his career. Fernandez’s fastball velocity topped out at its usual 97 mph early in the game but dipped to the low 90s as the outing continued, raising concerns. Fernandez was lifted in the sixth after giving up a grand slam to Jedd Gyorko on a 93-mph fastball.
Afterward, it was revealed that Fernandez had vomited in the dugout just before he took the mound, but blamed his stomach issues on a steak he ate for his pregame meal.
He told reporters the following morning that his arm felt fine. “So far, yeah,” Fernandez said, when asked about his arm.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said he saw no evidence to suggest an arm issue.
“Honestly, I didn’t see anything,” Saltalamacchia said. “I know his stomach was bothering him. But I don’t look at the gun readings, so I didn’t see the [dip in] velocity.”
But Fernandez confided in Redmond that he felt discomfort in his right elbow, did not throw his normal between-starts bullpen session on Sunday in San Diego, and was taken Monday to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ doctor.
“I’m just hoping that it’s just sore and we’ve just got to shut him down for however long, and that it’s not anything more than that,” Redmond said.
The Cuban-born pitcher arrived on the scene for the Marlins like a bright comet. He was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year, finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher, and was named to the NL All-Star team.
The Marlins were cautious with Fernandez as a rookie last season, shutting him down in mid-September to limit his innings count. And they have not allowed him to throw a nine-inning complete game.
“We’ve protected him,” Redmond said. “We’ve been very consistent in how we’ve used him. We’ve given him extra days.”
Fernandez was off to another outstanding start, going 4-1 with a 1.74 ERA before Friday’s outing. He has never lost at Marlins Park, where he is 12-0, and was turning into a box-office draw. Crowds have been much larger for his starts than they are for anyone else.
“Obviously, he means [a lot] to our team and the rotation, and really all of baseball,” Redmond said. “This guy has been a dynamic player. He’s been a huge lift and a huge spark to our team.”
Said Saltalmacchia: “It’s a big hit obviously with him. He’s our ace.”
The Marlins recalled left-handed reliever Dan Jennings from Triple A.
: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (0-0, 6.75 ERA) at Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Josh Beckett (0-1, 2.80), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
: Marlins (TBA) at Dodgers LHP Paul Maholm (1-3, 4.71), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.