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Marlins reiterate Fernandez plan despite success

Ace keeps impressing during rehab starts, but won't return until July 2; Cosart likely back soon

MIAMI -- Despite an impressive outing in his latest rehab start Monday, Marlins ace Jose Fernandez will stick with the original game plan and make his return to Miami's starting rotation on July 2.

"It's what we mapped out. It's the protocol that we set in place a long time ago, so there's no reason to deviate from that now," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said Tuesday prior to the start of a key nine-game homestand that begins with a three-game series against the Cardinals, who have the best record in MLB.

Fernandez, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2014, worked seven strong innings and threw 90 pitches for the Class A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads on Monday. He allowed one run on four hits and registered nine strikeouts in his fourth rehab start.

"It's not only the fact that he stretched himself out to that 90-pitch mark, but also the quality of what he did, only one walk, nine punchouts," Jennings said of Fernandez's next-to-last rehab start before rejoining the Marlins' rotation. "The quickness and the depth to his curveball was huge, and the fact that he used a changeup as much as he did."

Although Fernandez has passed every test in his rehab journey, Jennings said that the club will not waver from its plan to give their ace right-hander one more rehab start -- Saturday at Double-A Jacksonville.

"We're going to stick according to plan and let that run its course, and July 2 will be the day," Jennings said.

Fernandez is not the only injured Marlin who could be returning to the club soon. Jennings said Tuesday that starting pitcher Jarred Cosart likely will be activated from the disabled list (vertigo) on Thursday. The right-hander pitched Sunday in a rehab start at Double-A.

"He's good," Jennings said of Cosart. "He had a nice outing [Sunday]. A little over 100 pitches, walked six, which is a little more than we wanted, but he threw the ball very well and utilized all his pitches."

Jennings also said that right-hander Tom Koehler, who missed a scheduled start last Saturday because of back/neck muscle spasms, "feels much better" and is expected to start Friday's game against the visiting Dodgers. Also, right-hander Bryan Morris (lower back strain) threw a rehab outing on Monday and "may be very close to returning," according to Jennings.

Jennings also said that first baseman Michael Morse (15-day DL, right ring finger sprain) has been swinging the bat well in his last three rehab games at Double-A and "possibly could return during this homestand."

Third baseman Martin Prado (15-day DL, right shoulder sprain) continues with his strengthening program, but Jennings said there's no timetable on his return.

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to
Read More: Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez