Fernandez's spring debut was in midseason form
Right-hander throws two scoreless innings with two strikeouts against Cards
JUPITER, Fla. -- The adrenaline had already kicked in by the time Marlins ace Jose Fernandez reached Roger Dean Stadium on Friday morning.
Manager Mike Redmond sensed it right away, but figured he would double-check, just to make sure.
Fernandez was walking out of the weight room and passed Redmond, who asked, "You ready?"
Without hesitation, Fernandez responded, "You don't even have to ask."
If you think Fernandez is resting on the laurels of his 2013 National League Rookie of the Year season, think again.
Fernandez picked up where he left off last season. The 21-year-old tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two in the Marlins' 5-4 win over the Cardinals.
"He did what he set out to accomplish," Redmond said. "He pounded the strike zone. He looked good. Looked solid. Got a couple of pitches up, but for the first time out on the mound, he looked great. His tempo was good. I was happy with the way he pitched."
After a perfect first inning, Fernandez gave up two singles and committed a sloppy error in the second inning. Yadier Molina singled to right on a high fastball, and Fernandez struck out Peter Bourjos on a full-count slider.
With two outs, Shane Robinson bounced a hard chopper to the mound that deflected off Fernandez's glove. Scrambling after the ball, Fernandez made a wild, off-balance flip that sailed over the head of first baseman Garrett Jones. The error put runners on second and third.
Angry at himself, Fernandez regrouped and retired Tony Cruz on a soft liner to second base.
Fernandez was done after two innings, throwing 32 pitches with 23 strikes.
"I got a little upset. That's normal," Fernandez said of his error. "I was like, 'This is good. First inning, I got it out of the way easy.' Second inning, I was like, 'This is good, I've got a guy second and third, let's see what I've got.' I learned a little bit today."
The more we see Fernandez, the more we learn about him, too. What we know is he is a rabid competitor, and a bundle of energy. He can be light-hearted, fun-loving. Yet, when it comes to throwing a baseball, he is all business.
"On game day, a lot of starters are grumpy, focused, even in Spring Training," Redmond said. "I've only been around a few guys like him. To him it seems like another day."
Fernandez's passion for the game doesn't differentiate between preseason and regular season.
"It felt like it was Opening Day," the hard-throwing right-hander said. "It feels good to feel like that in the first Spring Training game. Obviously, I'm on the team, but I'm still going out there to do the best I can, to get better.
"I think I could have done a little better, but I'm not going to be too hard on myself, first start. It's been a little while since I've pitched against big league hitters."
An innings limit put a halt on Fernandez's rookie campaign on Sept. 11, and he had to take on the role of spectator for the final few weeks.
The Marlins opened Spring Training on Feb. 16, and Fernandez waited another 12 days before facing hitters from another club.
With so much pent-up passion to pitch, Fernandez was in midseason game mode Friday.
"Today, I wanted to pitch. I wanted to go out there and kill the other team," he said. "That's what I wanted to do.
"I don't really believe in 'Game day, you've got to be mad.' I like to have fun. That's who I am. I can't change who I am. I try to enjoy it. I'm the same in Spring Training, and Opening Day is going to be the same thing."
In the Marlins' clubhouse there is an announcement board that had the Cardinals logo drawn on it, reminding the players who they were playing. Next to it, Fernandez wrote the word "muerto" (Spanish for kill).
"They're the Cardinals," Fernandez said. "We're here, next to each other. I don't like nobody who is not on my team, when I'm playing baseball."