New season, same approach for Fernandez
Rookie of the Year starts spring opener vs. Cards with Saltalamacchia behind plate
JUPITER, Fla. -- The season may have changed, but Jose Fernandez is planning on keeping things basically the same.
Why fix something that isn't broken?
That's the mindset Fernandez is taking into the Marlins' Grapefruit League opener on Friday against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, is eager to face a different opponent for the first time since he beat the Braves in his final start last Sept. 11.
"I don't really want to change much from what happened last year," the hard-throwing right-hander said. "The game will tell you what you have to do. We'll figure it out and see where I am tomorrow. So far, I'm feeling well, throwing the ball well. We'll see tomorrow."
So much has changed for Fernandez and the Marlins since last Spring Training.
Taking on the Cardinals also marks the first game action for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal with Miami after winning the World Series with the Red Sox.
Fernandez entered camp last February as a highly-touted prospect looking to make an impression, not necessarily make the team.
The organization was anticipating he'd open the year at Double-A Jacksonville. Fernandez was in big league camp, but he was seldom used, tossing just two innings in Grapefruit League play.
Now, he is the ace of the staff and one of the faces of the franchise.
"I'm starting to get my routine going already," Fernandez said. "I'm excited about it. Hopefully, everything is going to work out well, and we're going to win a game."
Friday also is the first time Fernandez will throw to Saltalamacchia.
"That's important," manager Mike Redmond said. "Salty, we talked about him having a lot of work to do in this camp, getting to know all of our pitchers. We talked about him having to catch our starters, and even the relievers. There is that comfort level for him as well.
"When the bell rings for Opening Day, he wants to make sure he is prepared and has seen all the guys. We'll make sure that will happen for him."
Saltalamacchia, 28, brings championship experience to a youthful Miami club.
"Salty, he knows what he's doing," Fernandez said. "He's got a lot of experience. He was World Series champion for some reason. You don't get that too easy.
"Relationship-wise, it's been really amazing, outside the field and on the field too. I'm excited about how it's going to be."
The Marlins have reshaped their roster. Along with Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, Casey McGehee and Jeff Baker signed as free agents.
Furcal, who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery to his right elbow, will not play on Friday. Instead, he is being held back to Saturday, to play in the split-squad game against the Cardinals.
Other than Furcal, the Marlins are expected to go with most of their projected regulars, including Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.
Fernandez is scheduled to throw two innings, and the regulars should get a couple of at-bats.
"It's always important to me that first time around for our guys to get out there and get reacquainted with game situations, and to see a different color uniform," Redmond said. "Those adjustments take a little time for guys to settle in. I look for [Fernandez] to settle in. I want to see him throw strikes and just be himself."
At 21, Fernandez has already established himself as one of the top pitchers in the game.
A year ago, the team handled him with caution, placing an innings limit on him of around 170. Fernandez threw 172 2/3.
High-energy by nature, Fernandez will be advised to relax and pitch, not over-do anything.
"Just go out there and get his pitches in," Redmond said. "Just for him to get out there and get comfortable is big for him and for all of our pitchers, especially our young guys. Just to get back on the mound and get that feel."