Miami Marlins

Jose Fernandez downplays bad luck of Marlins’ starters

Jose Fernandez was the Marlins’ 2014 Opening Day starting pitcher, but then suffered an elbow injury that sidelined him for 13 months. ‘Things happen,’ he said.
Jose Fernandez was the Marlins’ 2014 Opening Day starting pitcher, but then suffered an elbow injury that sidelined him for 13 months. ‘Things happen,’ he said. AP

Jose Fernandez was disappointed when he wasn’t named the Marlins’ Opening Day starter. Given the recent rash of injuries and performance shortcomings that have plagued the team’s previous honorees, perhaps he should have considered himself lucky.

Call it bad coincidence.

Call it a run of poor luck.

Call it a curse.

Whatever the explanation, the Marlins haven’t received a quality season from their Opening Day starter since 2010 when Josh Johnson went 11-6 and led the league with a 2.30 ERA in 28 starts.

Ever since, it’s been one disappointment after another — five straight seasons worth of them. And it’s part of the reason why the Marlins have failed to produce a winning record since 2009.

Their designated No. 1 starter has repeatedly fallen short, or dropped by the wayside completely.

“Things happen,” said Fernandez, who started the Marlins’ opener in 2014, blew out his elbow in his eighth outing, underwent Tommy John surgery, and did not pitch again until 2015.

But a curse?

“I don’t believe in that,” he said.

The facts, however, are indisputable.

And it all started in 2011 when Johnson was the Marlins’s Opening Day starter for the third straight year. After enjoying his best season as a big-leaguer, things went south for Johnson in ’11. He started the season well, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in four of his first five starts.

But he ended up making four more starts before a shoulder injury ended his season.

Johnson returned to be the Opening Day starter in 2012 when the Marlins opened their new ballpark. But the season was not a good one. He went 8-14 in 31 starts and was traded after the season.

Ricky Nolasco received Opening Day honors in 2013. But he went 5-8 in 18 starts and was dealt to the Dodgers at the July trade deadline.

Then came Fernandez’s turn to take the mound for the Marlins on Opening Day in 2014. Fernandez was coming off a brilliant first season in 2013 in which he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year.

But after going 4-2 and looking every bit the pitcher he was the previous season, Fernandez suffered an arm injury that resulted in surgery and kept him off the mound for 13 months.

Finally, last season, with Fernandez on the mend, Henderson Alvarez was tapped for the Opening Day start. Alvarez made only four starts, losing all four of them, before a shoulder injury ended his season. The Marlins, deciding not to take a risk on the right-hander, non-tendered Alvarez, who signed with Oakland.

Now it’s Wei-Yin Chen’s turn to throw the first pitch of the season for the Marlins when they open April 4 at home against Detroit.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Fernandez, who will start the second game of the season.

Should Chen be worried based on recent events with the Marlins’ Opening Day starters?

“No way,” Fernandez said.

▪ The Marlins’ game Friday against Washington was canceled because of rain.

Scheduled starter David Phelps threw 70 pitches indoors, and manager Don Mattingly said Chen would remain on schedule to start Saturday in Kissimmee against Houston.

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