Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Alonso's Fernandez to debut with Marlins

TAMPA — Jose Fernandez got the call last week.

Then Landy Faedo did, too.

"He called me before it was written to tell me," the Alonso High School baseball coach said. "He sounded calm, like this was just something he's been working for. Like this was just part of the plan."

This afternoon at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y., Fernandez — one of the best pitchers in Tampa Bay high school history — will make his major-league debut with the Marlins at the age of 20, a mere 684 days after leading Alonso to a state championship.

Faedo planned to fly out Saturday to New York, thrilled about the opportunity to watch the first major-leaguer his Ravens baseball program has ever produced. He described it all as "movie stuff."

Fernandez, drafted with the 14th overall pick in 2011, was added to Miami's roster last week, a surprise to many because of his youth and lack of pro experience (just one full year in Class A ball).

But it's no surprise to Faedo, who helped coach and nurture Fernandez after the big right-hander fled Cuba and arrived at Alonso in 2008.

"I don't think the Marlins are doing anything out of desperation," Faedo said. "They are bringing up someone who has big-league stuff. He's never been considered a project."

The Marlins had planned to put Fernandez on an innings count this season in the minors, and that 170 innings or so limit will be in effect if he stays with the big club all season.

"We understand the asset we have, the value of him, his age, and we're going to do whatever we can do to do things in his best interest," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told the Palm Beach Post. "We think he is ready to do it. He just demonstrated everything from maturity to physical strength to the quality of pitches that he can do it."

Friday was the fifth anniversary of the day Fernandez arrived in America and began his sterling prep career. He won the state championship game as a sophomore in 2009 with a complete-game effort. And he was the Tampa Bay Times' All-Suncoast player of the year in 2011, when he went 13-1 with 134 strikeouts in 93 innings. He also hit nine home runs, leading the Ravens to their second state title in three seasons.

Fernandez was the highest-drafted Hillsborough County player in 14 years.

A 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, Fernandez was 30-3 in high school and tore through the minors last season (14-1, 1.75 ERA in 25 games).

And good news for local fans: Everyone can watch. Fox Sports Florida is carrying the 1 p.m. game, and the MLB Extra Innings package is free for the first week of the season, so the game can be found on most cable systems.

"I'm blessed,'' he said. "I've got an amazing opportunity to be here and show what I do."

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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