Top Marlins prospect Fernandez dazzles in debut

Righty enters in relief, throws two scoreless frames in first Grapefruit League game

VIERA, Fla. -- Even in an unfamiliar role Saturday, Marlins top prospect Jose Fernandez was as sharp as ever.

The powerful young right-hander cruised through two innings of work against the Nationals, recording two strikeouts and allowing just one single. All of Fernandez's 25 appearances last year were starts, but pitching the sixth and seventh innings of Miami's split-squad game in Viera didn't faze him much.

"I was asking, 'When do I warm up? Can I warm up now? Can i get ready now?'" Fernandez said. "But it's not a big deal. Just another step of the way."

Fernandez, ranked as the Marlins' No. 1 prospect and No. 7 overall in all of baseball, induced groundnuts from Chris Snyder and Corey Brown, and struck out Carlos Rivero looking with a sharp curveball in the sixth. Fernandez struck out Micah Owings in the seventh before Carlos Maldonado singled. That was the only damage against the young righty.

"I was thinking about going out there, keeping the ball low, throwing a lot of strikes," Fernandez said. "Obviously, that's a very good team that we're facing."

Fernandez, 20, was the Marlins' first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, and split last season between low Class A Greensboro and high Class A Jupiter. He went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA overall in 25 starts (134 innings), averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings and leading the Minors in WHIP (0.93), finishing second in ERA and fourth in batting average against (.191).

"He's really pitched the ball well this spring," said bench coach Rob Leary, who made the trip to Viera. "He's got a lot of poise, and a guy that attacks the zone. He showed you again today with two really good innings. We really like where he's at right now. He's really coming along real well."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter