Jose Fernandez is no longer with them in body.
But his spirit lingers, and the Marlins have made a pact to draw on memories of his passion and enthusiasm for inspiration on the field this season.
“We’re going to go to battle for Jose,” Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon said.
During a closed-door clubhouse meeting before the Marlins took the field on Friday for their first full-squad workout, manager Don Mattingly told his players to use the spirit of Fernandez as a motivational tool.
“He talked about keeping the passion and energy in the backs of our minds as we go out and play,” backup infielder Derek Dietrich said. “That’s the one thing we appreciated and loved most about him, was how hard he played and the energy and passion he brought every single day. It was unmatched.”
Said third baseman Martin Prado: “Every time you step between those lines, play with his spirit.”
Gordon said players have spoken privately about their desire to keep Fernandez’s gung-ho energy in their minds whenever they step on the field.
That point was driven home again Friday in Mattingly’s speech.
Players said remembering Fernandez that way won’t be hard.
“He’s still a brother and a teammate to us, and we know we’ve always got him in our hearts and minds,” Dietrich said.
▪ Miguel Rojas won the team’s NFL Fantasy League title over the winter, and he made sure everyone knew it during Friday’s workout. Rojas placed the large silver trophy at the shortstop position during infield drills and took it with him inside the cage during batting practice.
“You can just put it in quotes that I said he’s a very ‘humble’ winner,” groused Marlins first baseman Justin Bour, whose fantasy team was no match for the one belonging to Rojas, Prado and head athletic trainer Dustin Luepker.
Rojas grew up in Venezuela having never watched pro football, which only added to his delight.
“When I got into the fantasy league, they were making fun of me,” Rojas said. “So today I was trying to enjoy my day.”