Fernandez throws first session since Tommy John surgery
'Just like riding a bike,' Marlins ace pleased with latest step in rehab from May operation
JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins ace Jose Fernandez took another step in his rehab from Tommy John surgery on Sunday, when the right-hander threw a short bullpen session off the mound for the first time since last May.
Fernandez, who was diagnosed with a torn UCL after his eighth start last season and had surgery May 16, warmed up on flat ground for several minutes Sunday morning before heading to the mound at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. He threw 10 warmup pitches, then fired 15 fastballs to bullpen coordinator Jeff Urgelles as pitching coach Chuck Hernandez watched from the side.
"It's all about steps for him along the way, and this is one of those important steps for him," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said prior to Fernandez's session. "Just to see him back up on the mound is obviously exciting for us. This is just another step in getting him back to pitch for us. I know it's a day that he's been waiting for and is excited about, as all of us have."
Fernandez smiled and hugged his mother and grandmother as he headed back to the clubhouse after the session.
"Being the first one, I was a little nervous, but it was great," Fernandez said. "It's huge. I mean, after almost nine and a half months, getting on the mound again, it feels great. It's where I belong and that's what I love to do, but it's just another step toward a goal. Doesn't mean we're going to rush anything."
Fernandez said his back, legs and shoulder feel strong, and that everything felt "really, really normal" during his bullpen session. He said the velocity on his pitches was at about 50-55 percent.
"I think today all around was a really good day. The strike zone was there, the location was there, in and out, right down the middle with a fastball. It was just like riding a bike," Fernandez said. "Tomorrow we'll see how it feels, how we adjust, because it's been a while. But so far, I feel like I threw a light bullpen. I'm going with the flow, following the plan. There's a lot of days ahead. Just keep taking little steps forward."
Hernandez said that Sunday's session was another day of a long process, but that so far everything has gone according to plan.
"He wanted to throw it at 6:30 this morning. He was probably more nervous than his first start against the Mets [in 2013]," Hernandez said. "I could just see the excitement level and all that, but he's been very mature about it. He understands we have a long road and a long process and there's not going to be anything that changes it or interrupts it as long as everything continues to go good."
Fernandez's next bullpen session, according to Hernandez, will be Thursday, and after that, the righty will have sessions on Mondays and Thursdays each week.
"Our biggest job is to keep the governor on him because he feels good," Hernandez said. "He understands that. He's not in a big rush. He's not wearing me out about talking, 'I'm ready to pitch,' anytime sooner than we scheduled. He's going to go through the process and do it right. He's on track to do the kinds of things he wants. He just can't speed up the timetable, that's all."