MIAMI -- Marlins ace Jose Fernandez said Tuesday that he was stunned when he learned he would need Tommy John surgery, and that in hindsight, he should have possibly handled the injury differently.
Fernandez, his right arm in a sling, met with media Tuesday at Marlins Park prior to Miami's game against the Phillies for the first time since he had successful surgery last Friday in Los Angeles on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He was upbeat and was flashing his trademark smile while answering all the questions from the throng of media.
"No pain, no pain," Fernandez said, adding that he will return to L.A. next Tuesday to have the cast and stitches removed and begin the rehab process that likely will keep him from pitching again for at least a year.
"It was sad, because I felt I let my team down. It's sad I left my teammates hanging. That's the painful part. Forget about pain, it's just sitting at home watching my teammates."
Fernandez said he felt discomfort in his elbow during his last outing on May 9, a loss to the Padres in San Diego when he was roughed up for six runs in five-plus innings. He discounted speculation that the injury occurred because he might have altered his delivery after being hit in the knee by a line drive against the Dodgers on May 4.
Even after feeling discomfort during his next start, Fernandez said he didn't think it was anything serious.
"It never popped, it was just a little pinch," Fernandez said. "I don't think I altered my delivery. Everything was the same because I was trying to not let anybody see that I was in a little pain. I was trying to pitch with it without anybody knowing, not even [catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia]. I didn't think it was anything to worry about."
Fernandez said even when he went for an MRI that he was totally unprepared for the news that he would need Tommy John.
"Honestly, I thought I was going to be like a month out," Fernandez said. "A month rehab, get back, no big deal."
Fernandez said he felt he had good reason for not telling the Marlins sooner about the "pinch" he felt, and that he really wasn't 100 percent healthy when he took the mound in San Diego during the Marlins' recent 11-game road trip to the West Coast.
"Because we were in first place," Fernandez said. "I know health and all that stuff comes first for some people. To me, my team comes first and that's just who I am, and I wish I could change it and hopefully I can learn from it. I'm still happy with the decision."
Fernandez said he accepts responsibility for everything and has no regrets about deciding to have the surgery instead of trying to rehab it.
"I don't blame [anybody]. If I blame somebody, I blame myself," Fernandez said. "I don't regret not saying anything. That was my call. And it probably wasn't the smartest thing, but this is my team, and I give my life for my team.
"[Having the surgery] was the smartest way and the safest way to have a long career. I might have been able to rehab and come back, but probably not the way I wanted to. To me, this is just a little bump in the road. It's something I've got to learn from. I hope I'll be better. I can't wait to get back. It's going to be a special day."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said it was good to see his ace pitcher in the clubhouse again, but it also was tough seeing him in a sling.
"It's a big blow for us, but you gotta keep going. The games continue," Redmond said. "You know he's going through a tough time, but we know he's on the road to recovery. A lot of guys come back and pitch the same or even better, and as tough as it is to see him in this sling, we know he's going to be back and ready to compete. Who knows when that day is going to be, but I know he's going to work hard and do what he has to do to get himself back."
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.