Fernandez tuned out rumors, ready for 2016

February 17th, 2016

MIAMI -- After all the rumors and speculation, Jose Fernandez is ready to get into his comfort zone -- the mound. The energetic 23-year-old is eager to move forward and do his part to help the Marlins become a postseason contender in 2016.

If there was any question about Fernandez's commitment to being part of the Marlins, he put that to rest on Wednesday, speaking to reporters at the Jack McKeon Celebrity Golf Classic at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.

"At the end of the day, the only thing you can take care of is to work hard and do what you're supposed to do," Fernandez said. "I'm happy to be back here. I'm happy to be back with the guys. I'm lucky to be here."

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Earlier in the offseason, Fernandez was prominently mentioned in trade rumors. The speculation intensified at the Winter Meetings in early December in Nashville, Tenn., but nothing gained much traction afterwards.

There have also been reports about Fernandez's long-term future in Miami. The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner is in his first year of arbitration, and he won't be a free agent until after the 2018 season.

Unless a long-term deal is reached with Fernandez and his agent, Scott Boras, the Marlins may indeed at some point entertain trading one of the most talented young right-handers in the game.

"I think this is just part of the game," Fernandez said. "It's the first time it happened to me. I was talking with my agent, asking him questions."

With the Marlins starting Spring Training on Friday with pitchers/catchers workouts at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., Fernandez is now focused on the upcoming season.

"I think we'll be ready," Fernandez said. "I think we'll have a fun year. I'm looking to making it to the playoffs."

In terms of how he will be used this season, that still is being determined. The Marlins have a tentative innings limit range of around 180 innings for Fernandez, who underwent Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2014.

"We'll figure it out," Fernandez said. "We'll make it work."

Input will come from the Marlins, their coaching and medical staffs, Fernandez, his camp and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the procedure.

"We have a tentative plan in place that we'll review with Jose and Dr. ElAttrache," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "But with anything, it's just common sense. We're going to watch him, and watch his stressful innings, and make decisions accordingly."

Fernandez started 11 games in 2015, going 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 64 2/3 innings. His career high for innings was 172 2/3 in 2013. He has logged 116 1/3 frames over the past two seasons.

Fernandez doesn't envision any problems coming up with an innings guideline.

"We have extremely good communication," Fernandez said. "We'll be fine."

What is clear is from the start of Spring Training, Fernandez will be ready to go. He's already thrown off the mound seven times in recent weeks at Marlins Park. New pitching coach Juan Nieves has also made a trip to Miami to watch the team's ace throw.

Manager Don Mattingly said limiting Fernandez's innings could come down to common sense.

"There's times you can save him an inning here or there," Mattingly said. "You're probably not going to pitch him on short rest or any of those types of things. You're just going to try to manage his innings the best you can."

Some managers have already announced their Opening Day starter. Fernandez is the clear-cut choice, but Mattingly sees no urgency to make a call for who will take the mound on April 5 in the home opener against the Tigers.

"We're looking into Jose's innings, and how that works out, putting his plan together," Mattingly said. "Obviously, he's an easy choice. But I just don't think there is any need to go announce anything yet."