Jose Fernandez is throwing more pitches and walking more batters than at any time in his career, but he said there’s no reason to pull the alarm switch.
“I’m not concerned about it,” said Fernandez, who will start Sunday.
In his seven starts so far, Fernandez is averaging 4.4 walks per nine innings, which is more than twice last season’s rate of 1.9. He’s also averaging 4.17 pitches per batter faced — the second-highest rate in the National League among 51 qualified starters.
Fernandez attributes his control problems to ever-changing arm angles, some of it stemming from his return from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps, he said, he’s protecting his arm without knowing.
“I feel like after the surgery, coming back, and last year being a little tired, I’m trying to find a safe angle, maybe,” Fernandez said. “I’ve been walking people, and it’s not normal for me.”
Most of Fernandez’s command problems have occurred early in his starts. But as the game goes on, he’s been able to lock in by slowing down and smoothing out his delivery.
Arm strength is not an issue. His average fastball velocity (94.9 mph) has remained relatively unchanged, and his average of 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings is the highest of his career.
“We know what’s going on,” Fernandez said. “We think it’s the different angles when I’m releasing the ball. I feel like sometimes I’ve been moving [the arm angle] around a little bit. But when I really have to make a pitch, I go back to what I feel is natural.”
Manager Don Mattingly has noticed the pattern.
“When he gets in trouble, he just gets going fast and he pushes the ball some,” Mattingly said. “It kind of comes out, taking off on him. When he’s good, you can see that the throws have finish to them. He seems to be able to fix it and get back into rhythm.”
Fernandez has been working between starts with pitching coach Juan Nieves to iron out the delivery kinks.
“I know he’s worked on some mechanical issues with the front arm — making sure it stays up — which keeps him on line and his throws are better,” Mattingly said.
Said Fernandez: “There’s always things to work on. That’s why I love this game so much.”
no fear of bryce
While other pitchers are avoiding Bryce Harper at all costs, pitching him carefully rather than allowing him to swing the bat, Kyle Barraclough isn’t one of them.
After giving up a go-ahead home run to Harper in the seventh inning of Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Nationals, Barraclough said he doesn’t intend to change his approach in the future with the NL’s reigning MVP.
“I’m going to pitch to him,” Barraclough said. “I’m not going to shy away. I’m not going to work around him. I’m going to go right at him and try to get him out. I’m going to accept the challenge, and he won this one.”
▪ Bryan Morris wasn’t only disappointed that he gave up a game-tying home run to pinch-hitter Stephen Drew on Friday. He was angry at himself for losing his cool with home-plate umpire Chris Guccione.
Morris exchanged words with Guccione when the inning ended.
The reason? Morris thought an 0-1 pitch to Drew was a strike. Guccione called it a ball, which changed the entire complexion of the at-bat. Drew hit Morris’ fourth pitch for a two-run homer.
“I let that carry over into the next two pitches,” Morris said of the call that didn’t go his way. “I was caught up in the moment and asked about that pitch, and told him I thought it was a strike. It was unprofessional on my part, so I would like to apologize to Chris on that end.”
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Fernandez (4-2, 3.54 ERA) at Washington Nationals RHP Joe Ross (3-2, 2.29), 1:35 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (2-2, 3.72) at Philadelphia Phillies RHP Jerad Eickhoff (1-5, 4.43), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.