University of Miami freshman Keven Pimentel lost his focus on the mound for a brief moment Tuesday.
Pimentel had never pitched to a Cooperstown-bound batter before.
“I was trying to throw strikes and look at our catcher, but at one moment I looked up and I thought, ‘Wow that’s Ichiro, a future Hall of Famer,’” Pimentel said.
Pimentel kept his composure through most of the four innings of his start against most of the Miami Marlins’ projected Opening Day starting lineup.
The lineup included Ichiro Suzuki as its designated hitter as well as All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon, last year’s National League batting champion.
“The highlight for me was getting all the ground ball outs,” said Pimentel, who had not started a game yet for UM but has appeared in two regular season games out of the bullpen.
“I mean, I got Dee Gordon, the batting champion, to ground out and Giancarlo Stanton to ground out. Knowing I was competing against guys like that gives you confidence that maybe one day you can be in that same spot.”
UM originally planned to start freshman Andrew Cabezas, but gave Pimentel the chance after Cabezas didn’t make the trip to Jupiter.
Miami Southridge High alum Robert Andino’s two hits and two RBI helped the Marlins beat the Hurricanes 5-1 in their annual exhibition matchup at Roger Dean Stadium.
Before the game, UM players, including right fielder Willie Abreu and pitcher Devin Meyer, got the chance to chat with Stanton and Christian Yelich, a Gold Glove winner in 2014 for the Marlins. Yelich was orally committed to UM before signing a pro contract.
“Those are great guys and it’s great to see them once a year,” Yelich said. “It’s a great program and something I wanted to be a part of, but then something came up that I couldn’t pass up.”
Yelich, who did the most damage among the Marlins starters Tuesday while going 2 for 2, spent time chatting with UM coach Jim Morris after batting practice.
“Christian and I stay in touch either on Twitter or when we can talk in person,” Morris said. “I told him I was happy for him and congratulated him on his contract.”
Jose Fernandez will pitch a simulated game Wednesday in Jupiter as he prepares to make his first start of the spring.
Fernandez and David Phelps will each go a couple of innings for one team, while Edwin Jackson and Bryan Morris pitch for the other.
Fernandez said he is on schedule to pitch every five days after Wednesday’s workout, which would put him on track to start his first spring game against the Nationals on Monday in Viera.
“I think I’ll probably throw a couple of innings [Wednesday], and maybe three if I get quick outs,” Fernandez said. “After that, it looks like I would pitch five days after that I’m ready to go. I’m healthy and I’ve been very, very happy with the way I’ve been throwing.”
The Marlins are working on a usage plan for Fernandez, who is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and is hoping to pitch his first full season since 2013 — when he earned National League Rookie of the Year honors.
“They’re doing it to set me up to pitch when the real games begin,” Fernandez said. “I’m rehabbing and I’m ready to go. I don’t want to get treated like I’m hurt. Tomorrow is fun. I don’t want to get hit so no matter who I’m pitching to, I want to get them out. That’s where the competitiveness comes in.”
Tom Koehler is scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals on Thursday, and manager Don Mattingly said lefties Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino would start the split-squad games Friday, with Conley going against the Nationals in Jupiter and Nicolino pitching against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.