It has been a dreamy rookie season for 20-year old Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, one made even sweeter by the All-Star experience he got to share with his mother Maritza in New York earlier this week.
“We actually stayed in the same room, talking until two, three in the morning every night,” said Fernandez, who jumped into the ocean five years ago to save his mother during their daring escape from Cuba.
“My mom got to do a lot shopping with me [in New York]. I was happy about that.”
Fernandez, who said Thursday he answered every text message he received from family, teammates and old friends after his stellar All-Star performance, knows the good times — at least for this season — are not going to last forever. In fact, he’s OK with the fact the number of starts he has left this season are numbered.
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The Marlins, who open the second half of their season Friday night in Milwaukee, have had their 2011 first-round pick on an innings count all season. And despite the rookie’s first-half success, they still plan on shutting him down early to protect his young arm — likely in late August or early September.
“What we said was 150 to 170 innings,” manager Mike Redmond said Thursday, after his team got back together for the first time after the All-Star break for an afternoon practice at Marlins Park. “Obviously we’re going to push for closer to 170.”
Fernandez, who had never pitched above Single A before he surprisingly made the Marlins’ Opening Day roster back in April, threw 104 2/3 innings in the first half of the season. Last year, he threw a total of 134 innings between stints with Greensboro (N.C.) and Jupiter.
This first half, he finished 5-5 with a 2.75 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 40 walks. A total of 66 percent of his pitches went for strikes. In all, Fernandez has thrown 1,617 pitches — an average of nearly 90 pitches a start. The only time he eclipsed 100 pitches was in four of his last six starts.
Redmond said he never thinks about the long-term innings limit Fernandez is on when he takes the mound. He said he goes “solely on how he’s doing that day.”
“If he has a chance to win a ball game or whatever it is, and he’s going good then we’ll let him throw seven or eight innings,” Redmond said. “I’ve never gone into a game going we can only let him throw six innings a day. I take it from game to game. If he has a chance to throw a complete game then I’ll let him throw a complete game. If he keeps his pitches down and he has a chance he’ll go out there.”
But protecting Fernandez’s young arm for the long term is still important to Redmond. Fernandez, for his part, would love to pitch the entire season, but he said he has no problem with the Marlins’ plans in part because they have been up front since the beginning.
“They know I love to pitch, love to compete. They got a plan and I’m going to follow it 100 percent,” Fernandez said. “My next start is on Tuesday [in Colorado], and I’m going to go out there and do the best I can until they take me out. The next one after that should be five days after that and I’m going to do the best I can. That’s how I’m taking it. I’m not really thinking about innings and stuff like that.”
Redmond, himself a rookie manager in the big leagues, spent his All-Star break with former Marlins teammate Mike Lowell — and their families — over in the Bimini Islands of the Bahamas. Redmond said they went fishing with their kids and even did a little knee boarding.
“The seas were a little bit dicey, but it was a good adventure,” Redmond said of the families’ 70-mile journey east to the tiny island. “We had a nice time, got a chance to recharge and look forward to what’s going to happen this second half.”
Although the Marlins (35-58) will open the second half of the season facing three teams with losing records (Brewers, Rockies and Mets), they close out the season facing teams with winning records in 12 of their last 17 series who are all either leading their divisions or in the wild card hunt.
Even though Redmond has quite a few players who have never played into September, the skipper believes there are plenty of reasons his team won’t get worn out by the dog days of summer.
“We’ve got too much to play for,” Redmond said. “Guys are playing for lots of different things. They’re playing for contracts, survival in the big leagues. Everybody’s got something to play for. … I still feel like we can prove to this league we still have a lot of fight left in us and can make an impact.”
• Third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins’ 2013 first-round pick, homered in his first professional at-bat Wednesday in Greensboro. “My batting practice [session with him last week] must have gotten him locked in,” Redmond joked.
• With two-time Futures Game participant Christian Yelich healthy and raring for a big-league call-up it might not be very long before long the Marlins call on their 2010 first-round pick to join the outfield. “That’s probably a discussion that is going to happen — maybe on this road trip,” Redmond said.
• Redmond said Chris Coghlan, who has resumed baseball activities after seeing a spine specialist, probably won’t end up working at third base during his rehab stint since the Marlins have Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano healthy and available. Utility infielder Chris Valaika, who broke his wrist in early May, has been promoted to Triple A New Orleans after playing in 11 games in Jupiter.
Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (3-1, 2.33) at Brewers RHP Kyle Lohse (5-7, 3.67), 8:10 p.m.
Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-0, 2.93) at Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo (7-8, 4.83), 7:10 p.m.
The Brewers took two of three from the Marlins at Marlins Park last month. Lohse didn’t face the Marlins then, but went 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA against them last year. Turner didn’t pick up the win, but went seven innings, giving up just three earned runs against Milwaukee this year.