Jose Fernandez would have taken the mound on Tuesday at Marlins Park — the first game back from a long road trip — if he had not torn the ligament in his right elbow, an injury that led to Tommy John surgery.
That it is a crushing blow to the Marlins is not in dispute.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Marlins reliever Mike Dunn said.
“Devastating,” one major-league scout said.
Most everyone agrees — scouts and teammates — that the impact to the Marlins will go beyond just Fernandez’s singular presence on the mound every fifth day.
It could send shock waves throughout the entire pitching staff, from the starters to the relievers, and even have a ripple effect in the dugout and inside the clubhouse.
It will almost certainly alter the way Mike Redmond manages games.
It might even dictate what moves the front office decides to make leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
“It’s going to impact the team as a whole, not just the rotation,” starting pitcher Tom Koehler said.
Said the scout: “It’s going to affect the team a lot more often than just the day Jose is gong to pitch.”
When the news broke last week while the team was in Los Angeles that Fernandez would need season-ending surgery for a torn ulnar collateral ligament, the Marlins’ four remaining starters met privately with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to discuss the ramifications.
To put the significance of that into context, it’s highly doubtful such a meeting would have been held had it involved an injury to any of the other four starters. Pitching injuries, whether minor or significant, are considered a matter of course in the majors.
But when it involves a pitcher of Fernandez’s immense talent ...
“It wasn’t long,” Koehler said of the meeting. “It was just to make sure we all understand we need to go out there and not try to be somebody we’re not.”
To try to make up for the loss of Fernandez, in other words. But that might prove difficult.
The pro scout, who demanded that his name not be used in order to be quoted, said he thinks the area that will be most impacted is the Marlins’ bullpen.
“It changed the bullpen when Jose was pitching,” the scout said. “It ends up stretching the bullpen.”
If a manager knows his innings-eating ace is going the next night, he can go all-out with his bullpen the game before. Now, with Fernandez out of the picture, it could require Redmond to be more careful with how he uses his relievers. He may now need to hold them back in reserve for Fernandez’s replacement, who is rookie Anthony DeSclafani at present.
The trickle-down effect could continue into the following night — the night after Fernandez would have started. Instead of a rested bullpen on days following his starts, it could be a tired one, forced into action in support of the replacement.
“You’ll use your bullpen differently the day before and the day after,” the scout continued. “That one guy makes such a difference for a manager. There are only about 10 in all of baseball, and Jose is one of them.”
The scout said he thinks Fernandez also had an impact in the dugout with his enthusiasm.
“There’s a reason you have so many walk-off wins at home,” the scout said. “It’s because of Jose. He impacts that team every day. He cares they win on days he doesn’t pitch. It’s not an act when it comes to Jose. It’s a rare commodity.’’
Marlins closer Steve Cishek agreed.
“He’s obviously very competitive, and a lot of our guys feed off that,” Cishek said. “So when he has a huge shutdown inning, that’s going to ignite the offense, as well, to get guys fired up and put up some runs. He’s a kid and loves the game, and for people who notice that, it’s refreshing to see.”
Fernandez underwent surgery Friday.
He could show up to the ballpark on Tuesday to see his teammates for the first time in a week.
“It’ll be weird seeing him with an arm brace on,” Cishek said. “You never want to see that.”
Said the scout: “I’m so sad. I’ve never been sadder that a player got hurt. He’s the guy I liked to watch. The season is not lost for the Marlins. But they are going to struggle without him.”
Coming upTuesday Wednesday