The Marlins played their first game of the year Friday night at Marlins Park — even though it still didn’t count.
Jose Fernandez didn’t care.
His three first-inning strikeouts, in an outing that included a couple of three-pitch masterpieces against Alex Rodriguez, were real enough as the Marlins’ ace looked stellar in his final exhibition start in an eventual 3-2 loss against the Yankees on Friday night.
“I was pitching the seventh game of the World Series tonight,” Fernandez said. “Everything I do normally in the regular season, I did today, so this was a really important game for me.”
Fernandez struck out seven Yankees overall and did not walk any batters in a 50-pitch, four-inning outing that he dominated outside of one at-bat against Brett Gardner.
Fernandez showed good command of his fastball, which topped at 98 mph and mixed solid use of his curveballs, which twice led to strikeouts of Rodriguez.
“A-Rod has done really great things for this game,” Fernandez said.
“When I was getting stretched out for the game today, I was thinking about how I used to look up to him as a kid in Cuba. Someone told me, I have to strike him out today. I said I’ll try.”
Fernandez also used curve balls to strike out Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the first as he also struck out the side in that inning and again in the fourth against Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.
“There’s only one pitch I normally wouldn’t throw,” Fernandez said. “Every pitch I was really getting after it. There was no ‘spring training working on stuff.’ I was trying to get people out.”
That single pitch Fernandez regretted was not, however, the one Gardner belted for a solo home run that landed in the first row of the second deck in right field.
“I just looked at it on video and it was a pretty good pitch,” Fernandez said.
“[Gardner] just put an amazing swing on it. It felt good coming out of my hand and it was in the location I wanted, but he just put a great swing on it.”
Fernandez, who will make his regular-season debut in the Marlins second game of the season Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers at Marlins Park, is aiming to pitch his first full season since 2013 — the year before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
The Marlins have set a schedule for Fernandez in the hopes he can periodically pick up an extra days rest to keep his arm fresh and have him available for the entire season.
Fernandez carries his perfect 17-0 record, which is the longest streak for a pitcher at home in the modern era to start a career, into the season.
At Marlins Park, Fernandez has a career 1.40 ERA in 26 starts.
“I’m happy to be home and pitching [at Marlins Park] in front of the fans,” Fernandez said. “I’m really happy to be home.”
First in a scrimmage against their Triple-A team Thursday night and then Friday against the Yankees, the Marlins got their first chances to test the new dimensions to their outfield at their home ballpark.
The fences were lowered in left and right field from 11 1/2 to 7 feet and shortened the distances from center to right-center by nearly 11 feet.
The distance from home plate to center was reduced from 418 feet to 407.
“It seems to me like in your mind as a player, the stadium is still big,” Martin Prado said.
“Even though they brought the fences in, when the roof is closed it still has the feel of a big stadium and the ball doesn’t carry. You might see guys robbing home runs and that will be more fun for the fans, but it’s hard to tell in one day if it’s truly going to make a difference. I think when you start playing regularly in here you start getting more comfortable.”
The ball carried well enough for Yankees’ minor-league outfielder Lane Adams, who crushed a pitch from closer A.J. Ramos in the top of the ninth over the shorter left field fence for the runs that would result in a 3-2 loss for the Marlins.
Chris Johnson gave the Marlins a 2-1 lead in the eighth on a sacrifice fly ball that scored Miguel Rojas, who led off the frame with a walk that was followed by a single by Cole Gillespie and perfect bunt single by Don Kelly to load the bases.
Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, the Marlins tied the game on a one-out single by J.T. Realmuto that scored Giancarlo Stanton.
▪ Wei-Yin Chen pitched three innings in Thursday’s scrimmage as the team lined him up for his Opening Day start Tuesday.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Dustin McGowan vs. Yankees RHP Luis Severino, 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.