Jose 'a little amped up' in first rehab start
Working way back from Tommy John surgery, ace hits 99 mph, allows five runs, but results an afterthought
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Not much about Jose Fernandez's first rehab start surprised the prodigious Marlins right-hander on Saturday. His final line wasn't very good, but that wasn't a focus.
The only thing that did catch him off guard was the news that he hit 99 mph with his fastball.
"That means I was a little amped up," Fernandez said.
The Miami righty made his first official rehab start since his Tommy John surgery last May for Class A Advanced Jupiter at Charlotte Sports Park. On a 60-pitch limit, Fernandez threw 54 pitches -- 39 for strikes -- in three innings while surrendering eight hits and five runs. He struck out two -- both on 97-mph fastballs -- and walked one.
His stuff was largely good, especially when he pounded the zone with fastballs, and several of the hits were of the seeing-eye or soft-liner variety.
The biggest positive, though, was that he made it through the whole thing healthy.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," rehab pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal said. "The pitch count was the biggest thing. He got there. The results mean nothing to me. He came off healthy, so that's the biggest thing for me."
Fernandez started strong by pumping fastballs and hurled a scoreless first frame. He got a swinging strikeout against Charlotte leadoff hitter Dayron Varona with his fastball before No. 2 hitter Kean Wong punched another one of those 97-mph heaters into right field for a single. Despite allowing another single two batters later -- this one against a 98-mph fastball -- Fernandez escaped the inning unscathed.
Then he dialed back the velocity. In the second inning, he only threw two pitches faster than 94 mph and began to lean on his changeup. Before his start, Fernandez decided to focus primarily on his changeup against the Rays' Class A Advanced affiliate, which lacked the precision of his fastball. He felt he hit most of his spots, even though the bulk of his damage came when he went away from his fastball in the second and third innings.
"I would love to go out there and give up no runs, but I'm trying to work on my stuff," Fernandez said. "There's different situations that I could've thrown different pitches and get them out or pitches that I know that they were not going to hit, but the pitches that I want to work on were where I needed to be."
His next start will be next week in Jupiter -- probably on Friday against Charlotte -- although his pitch count won't increase much. He's on a five-start progression, Rosenthal said, and at least one of those will come at a level higher than the Florida State League.
Fernandez will focus on incorporating his curveball in the coming starts. He said he only threw about five or six breaking balls, and at least one ended up a hit for the Stone Crabs, but he won't target any specific number for his next few starts.
Right now he's just happy that there will be a rehab start No. 2.
"I feel really, really healthy," Fernandez said, "and I can't ask for anything else."