Jose Fernandez talks about the All-Star Game
A.J. Ramos used a little break during his All-Star Game media interview session to have some fun with Jose Fernandez.
At a booth a couple of steps away, Fernandez was answering questions from a throng of reporters.
Ramos lightened things up by pulling out his phone out and pretending to film his own interview.
The Marlins’ Ramos, Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna and Fernando Rodney took up nearly a full row of booths Monday afternoon during All-Star Workout Day — a sight rarely seen in the club’s history.
“I think all of us here together is even bigger than just [being in the All-Star Game],” Fernandez said. “We know the hard work we put in since spring training is paying off. Our main goal as a team is to go where we want to be.”
Despite some speculation in recent days, Fernandez won’t start Tuesday night at Petco Park.
Mets manager Terry Collins, who will manage the National League squad, announced earlier in the day during a news conference that Giants’ right-hander Johnny Cueto would be his starting pitcher.
Fernandez was believed to be a strong candidate especially in light of a few of the league’s best — Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg — all unavailable to pitch.
Collins went with Cueto, who is 13-1 in 18 starts this season with a 2.47 ERA that ranks only behind Kershaw (1.79) and Bumgarner (1.94) for the best ERA in the majors.
Cueto, who pitched for the Royals against Collins’ Mets in last year’s World Series, will become the first Dominican-born pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 and will oppose the White Sox’ Chris Sale, the American League’s starter.
“We had five very qualified guys, and as the game got closer and closer, Cueto continued to dominate the league and I felt he was the right choice,” Collins said.
Fernandez said he feels lucky to be on the mound on a stage like the All-Star Game no matter what inning he pitches.
Fernandez is two years removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, which cut short his second and third seasons in the majors.
In his fourth season, Fernandez is an All-Star for the second time and entered the All-Star break with a 11-4 record, 154 strikeouts, which ranks second in the majors behind Max Scherzer, and a 2.52 ERA that ranks fifth in the majors.
Fernandez’s 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings ratio is a major-league best, and his strikeout total at the break is a Marlins’ franchise record.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of tough times, but that’s what life is all about and I’m just happy to be here,” Fernandez said.
Ozuna, who was moved into the starting lineup this past weekend following injuries to outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler, will bat seventh in the NL lineup.
Ozuna, a first-time All-Star in the midst of a major turnaround season, is hitting .307 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI.
A year ago at this time, Ozuna was playing in New Orleans for the Marlins’ Triple A affiliate after being demoted and on his way to hitting a career-low .259 for the season.
“For me, this is something huge that I never thought would happen,” Ozuna said. “What happened last year helped motivate me to work harder, and so far it’s been helping me stay focused.”
Collins did not reveal which pitchers would follow Cueto’s start, but said it would likely include a number of right-handers early.
Fernandez, who last pitched Friday, figures to pitch one inning at most.
“We want to try and get as many of the guys in that were voted by the players and make sure they get in early so we can then sort out the back end of the game a little bit,” Collins said. “We haven’t seen Johnny this year, but his numbers speak for themselves and with what we saw last year against us that was the best outing I’ve ever seen him have.”
Rodney, acquired by the Marlins June 30 in a trade with the Padres, could find himself pitching on the home field of his former team. Rodney was picked for the third time in his career largely for his 17 saves in 17 chances and 0.31 ERA as the Padres closer.
Ramos, a first-time All-Star selected by Collins found out Monday he was more recognizable than he thought. Ramos (27 saves in 28 chances) is tied for second in the majors in saves.
“I was surprised how many guys knew me,” Ramos said. “I was like, ‘hey what’s up and they would answer, ‘Hey, what’s up, A.J.’ I just thought wow, they know who I am. That’s cool.”