Command eludes Fernandez in spring finale

Command eludes Fernandez in spring finale

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals sent Jose Fernandez a reminder that pitching isn't always easy. Not that the Marlins' ace is taking anything for granted.

But for even one of the most gifted starters in the game, the game can be humbling. It was that way for the 21-year-old in his Grapefruit League finale.

St. Louis scored five runs (four earned) off Fernandez on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium.

In fairness, it was the second time in five days the Cardinals had seen Fernandez. They jumped on his pitches early, scoring three times in the first inning and tacking on two more runs in the fourth.

Did Fernandez feel the St. Louis' plan was to attack early?

"Oh, for sure," he said. "I don't mind if they were trying to hit the ball early. That's better for me. But when I'm not commanding my pitches, I get hit."

Familiarity is one thing. Command is another. Fernandez was frustrated by his inability to locate all of his pitches. He fell behind and walked two. He added three strikeouts.

"It's not like I can put the ball where I want to every time," Fernandez said. "We'll see what happens in six days and go from there."

The next time Fernandez takes the mound will be Opening Day, set for Monday against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

"I'm trying to keep it calm and trying to do my job and not overdo anything," Fernandez said. "It's not good when I overdo stuff."

Fernandez finished Spring Training with a 3.54 ERA in 20 1/3 innings.

"I was just trying to throw strikes, and I couldn't," Fernandez said. "That's been a problem the whole Spring Training."

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