Fernandez, Marlins work out innings plan

Miami's ace will be positioned to get a day off for nearly half his starts in 2016

March 20th, 2016

JUPITER, Fla. -- As much as Jose Fernandez is itching to start on Opening Day, the 23-year-old right-hander sees the big picture. If getting his season rolling a day later means he will be available for perhaps the postseason, then he is on board.

That's the plan Miami envisions, and Fernandez is perfectly fine with it, even though he lobbied until the end to be on the mound for the April 5 opener against the Tigers at Marlins Park.

"Of course, everybody wants to pitch Opening Day, every pitcher," Fernandez said. "I was talking with A.J. [Ramos]. I said, 'I think even you would like to start, even though you're a closer.'"

Now that the decision has been made for Wei-Yin Chen to start Opening Day and Fernandez in Game 2, the Marlins ended their biggest mystery during Spring Training.

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Chen may be throwing the first day, but Fernandez is the club's ace. That hasn't been in question. What has been going on behind the scenes is how best to utilize him, who will be two years removed from Tommy John surgery on May 16.

"Generally, you're trying to protect him, and I think that's the bottom line," manager Don Mattingly said. "I look at my responsibility as you try to protect guys. Protect their careers, and they know that's part of the process."

Fernandez is working in a framework of 180 innings, and by going in the second game, he is better positioned to have nearly half of his projected starts coincide with days off.

"We don't have an amount of innings set," Fernandez said. "It's pretty much 180-200. It could be less. It could be more. Everything depends. The big thing is how I'm feeling. That was the main focus of the conversation."

On Saturday, Fernandez was part of a conference call that included Marlins officials and team doctors, as well as his agent, Scott Boras, and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed his Tommy John surgery.

The club felt it was important to settle Fernandez's innings range in Spring Training.

"We've been talking about this since the winter," Mattingly said. "It's been a process to get it mapped out. Everybody seems to be on board with it."

Fernandez is being built back up after logging 64 2/3 innings in 11 starts in 2015, when he went 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA.

Fernandez added that his innings will be revisited around the All-Star Game to determine how he could be used in the second half. By then, it could depend on if the team is in contention or not.

"I don't want to get shut down," Fernandez said. "It's not going to happen. But, we are planning everything out so perfect. Dr. ElAttrache has been fantastic. He's been so great. I talk to him every two weeks. We keep a really close relationship, and that helps a lot."