Top prospect Fernandez gets valuable mound time

Right-hander fires two scoreless innings in spring 'B' game against Cardinals

Top prospect Fernandez gets valuable mound time

JUPITER, Fla. -- Whether it is on a back field or the main field at Roger Dean Stadium, right now isn't really important for Jose Fernandez.

Just being out on the mound is what is important.

Fernandez, the Marlins' top prospect, made his Spring Training debut on Thursday morning. It came on a back field in a 'B' Game against the Cardinals.

"It's not really a big deal," the 20-year-old right-hander said. "It's just pitching. It doesn't matter where. I go out there trying to do the best I can. I enjoy it. Pitching is what I like to do."

The past few days, Fernandez had been taking it easy as he rested a tight right hamstring.

"Not a big deal," he said. "I went in to get a massage, it was kind of tight. The day before, I was working at the gym pretty hard. I was kind of tight."

For those who arrived early to see the 10 a.m. ET scrimmage, Fernandez gave glimpses of why he is one of the top prospects in the game.

The way Fernandez threw on Thursday morning was free and easy. He tossed two scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out one.

"I told him before he got there, go out, no pressure," manager Mike Redmond said. "Just go out, and make your pitches, relax, and just pitch the way you are capable of pitching and don't try to do too much. Don't go out there and try to impress people. Just do what you do, and pitch."

In the first inning, Fernandez allowed a leadoff single. But with one out, he threw a 2-2 fastball that ran in on the hands of Rafael Furcal, who tapped into a 1-6-3 double play.

Furcal, the veteran shortstop, is recovering from right elbow surgery, and he was getting some at-bats in the 'B' Game.

"The pitch before, I threw a curveball for a strike," Fernandez said of the showdown. "Then I threw him a changeup, and he fouled it off. He was thinking maybe I was going to go with something low in the dirt. He wasn't waiting for that fastball inside. I got a ground ball and a good double play."

In the second inning, Fernandez was helped by a nice running catch by center fielder Jake Marisnick. He also logged a strikeout to end the day.

Fernandez has the makings of being a future ace.

Miami's first-round Draft pick in 2011, Fernandez simply dominated Class A hitting a year ago. He combined to post a 14-1 record with a 1.75 ERA in 134 innings, striking out 158.

The plan is for Fernandez to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, meaning he is getting close to reaching the big leagues.

MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list has Fernandez ranked seventh. But, the self-assured right-hander makes it clear where he ultimately aspires to be.

"I just work hard to get better every day," Fernandez said. "I want to be the best. That's what I work for. I want to take the little things from everybody, and put it on myself."

Thursday was the first time Fernandez faced another team. He had pitched in a simulated game, and had the unfortunate incident of plunking Giancarlo Stanton in the back of the head with a fastball.

Recently, Fernandez also made a personal business decision. He signed on with prominent agent, Scott Boras.

"He's the best in the business," Fernandez said. "It's been good. We had a good talk, too. I like him. A week ago, I talked to him over the phone. I like the way he goes about business, the same way that I do. It's good."

Redmond said Fernandez will next pitch one inning of relief on Tuesday, when the Marlins face Team Venezuela.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.