Jose Fernandez is no longer out to show the world that his surgically repaired arm is healthy, or that every fastball he delivers must be thrown at maximum velocity, which is why he thinks he’s pitching better than ever before.
Call it a change of mind-set.
“I’m not trying to prove to everyone that I’m healthy and that I’m back,” said Fernandez, who, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, will be taking aim on a Marlins franchise record on Saturday when he faces the Diamondbacks. “I felt I had to go the extra mile when all I had to do was pitch.”
With wins in each of his past eight starts, Fernandez is tied with Chris Hammond for the team record. Incredibly, Hammond won eight consecutive starts for the 1993 Marlins, an expansion team that finished 64-98.
“I’m not here to break records,” Fernandez said. “I’m here to win ballgames and give us a good chance to win.”
Since starting the season 1-2, Fernandez has done just that, going 8-0 with a 1.38 ERA. He is tied for the major-league lead with nine wins and his strikeout rate of 13.3 whiffs per nine innings leads the majors.
“He’s pitching like a pitcher,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I think we see a more under control guy who is using his whole mix and not just trying to throw the ball through the wall every pitch.”
Mattingly said he has detected a couple of changes in Fernandez since April.
For one, Mattingly said Fernandez is changing speeds on his fastball, “being able to use a 92 [mph] fastball and then go to 96 or 97. It’s like having two different fastballs instead of just using one.”
For another, Fernandez has learned to temper his nervous energy.
“I think he’s emotional, that hasn’t changed,” Mattingly said. “But I think he’s been more calm before his starts.”
Mattingly cited an example involving Fernandez near the start of the season.
“The one game I remember, he hit for like an hour before the game,” Mattingly said. “He just said he was bored and he had to do something. And then it seemed like he was tired during the game. [Now], I think he’s stayed a little calmer before the games, saving his energy.”
Though he’s taken some of the steam off his fastball by design, Fernandez is still getting his high share of strikeouts. In his most recent start, Fernandez whiffed 14 New York Mets to equal a career high.
“Strikeouts are great,” Fernandez said. “They’re fun and everybody loves them. But I’m not looking for them. I’m not looking for strikeouts. I’m looking for quick outs. I’m growing.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Marlins selected high school outfielders with their first two picks Friday, the second day of the amateur draft, before turning their attention to college players.
With their third-round pick, the Marlins drafted Thomas Jones, the South Carolina Baseball Player of the Year. Jones, who committed to Vanderbilt, hit .420 with five homers.
The Marlins used their fourth-round pick on Sean Reynolds, a high school outfielder from California. After that, they went with slightly older players, using each of their final six picks on college standouts: two right-handed pitchers, a left-hander, two center fielders and a catcher.
▪ Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t impressed that he set a record for hardest-hit ball Thursday in Minnesota. For that matter, he questioned the reading: 123.9 mph on his double-play grounder.
“I would disagree,” Stanton said. “I’ve pulled balls harder than that.”
The exit velocity on Stanton’s grounder was measured by Statcast, which has been around since May of last season.
Stanton’s rocket Thursday broke his own record of 120.3 mph, which he set with a single last season against the Dodgers.
Stanton has the five hardest-hit balls in the Statcast era.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Fernandez (9-2, 2.29) at Arizona Diamondbacks (to be announced), 10:10 p.m., Chase Field.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (3-3, 3.76) at Arizona Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (2-5, 5.14), 4:10 p.m., Chase Field.