Jose Fernandez Returns To Tampa Bay

The Miami Marlins drafted Jose Fernandez from Braulio Alonso High Schoool in Tampa, Floirda with the 14th pick of the 2011 draft. Upon being drafted he told BayNews9 “I want to better than anyone else in MLB baseball, I want to be the best pitcher ever.”  That confidence carried over into his first year in professional baseball.

After signing with the Marlins in 2011 he made a handful of appearances in the Rookie League and Low A ball for a handful of appearances. In 2012 he split his first professional season between Single A Greensboro and High A Jupiter where he went  a combined  14-1 with a 1.75 ERA with 158 strikeouts and only 35 walks in 134 innings.  His performance elevated him to the fifth best prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List and #7 on MLB.com’s Top 100.

His ascent to the big leagues accelerated at a rapid pace after a slew of injuries in spring training opened the door for the 20 year old Fernandez to make his debut in New York against the Mets. Prior to the game he was asked if he was afraid of facing a prominent hitter like David Wright.  Fernandez responded “I’ve been in jail. I’ve been shot at. I’ve been in the water, I’m not scared to face David Wright. What can he do?” He also has said about making his first start  “that the only thing I’m scared of are roller coasters and snakes,the Marlins’ everything else, after that, I’m good about. Those two things, I don’t like.”

If someone other than Fernandez would have made the same comments it may have raised an eyebrow or two but to those who know the story behind Jose Fernandez it was understandable. In 2005, Jose’s dad fled Cuba and Jose and his mother had tried to make the same journey four times. According to Fernandez one time they got within 10 miles of the coast of Miami before being turned back by the Coast Guard. He and his mom were imprisoned after one failed attempt. During another escape attempt a wave hit the boat so hard that it threw someone overboard. Fernandez didn’t know who had fallen in but it turned out to be his mother.

Fernandez told the Tampa Tribune “When you come in that boat, it’s hard,” You have to be a man. You have to make some big decisions that a lot of kids 14, 15, 16 years old don’t make. So I made that decision when I saw somebody fall from the boat. I didn’t even know it was my mom.” Finally, on March 20, 2008 he, his mother (Maritza), and sister Yadenis were part of a group that left Cuba and after a few days at sea had reached their destination near Cancun, Mexico where they boarded a bus and eventually crossed the US border in Hidalgo, Mexico.

For Fernandez the journey through the minor leagues was much less taxing and from his experience he developed a maturity that eased the concerns of the Marlins front office of elevating him to the majors at such a rapid pace.

Thus far in 2013 he has a record of 2-2 with a 3.31 ERA and has struck out 46 while issuing 16 non-intentional walks. His last outing was Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies where he went 5 innings and allowed 1 earned run but took the loss as the Phillies defeated the Marlins 7-3.

The Rays counter with Jake Odorizzi who is looking for his first major league win and is making his second start in place of the injured David Price. His last outing came last Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays and he went 5 innings allowing 3 ER while striking out 6 and walking 1 in receiving a no-decision in a 7-5 Blue Jays victory.

Ben Zobrist has been elevated into the leadoff spot with Desmond Jennings dropped to the #7 position. The move may be an effort for Joe Maddon to get take advantage of Ben Zobrist on-base skills and allow Desmond Jennings the opportunity to break out of a month long slump.

Rays Lineup:  Ben Zobrist (2b), Matthew Joyce (RF), Kelly Johnson (LF), Evan Longoria (3B), James Loney (1b), Luke Scott (DH), Desmond Jennings (CF), Jose Molina (C), Yunel Escobar (SS)

Marlins Lineup: Chris Coghlan (LF), Placido Polanco (3b), Derek Dietrich (2b), Marcell Ozuna (RF), Rob Brantly (C), Justin Ruggiano (CF), Greg Dobbs (1b), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS), Jordan Brown (DH)

 

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