Jose Fernandez continues to get closer to returning to a major league mound. On Wednesday afternoon, Fernandez began his throwing program as he prepares to make his return in 2015. Miami is hoping its ace can be healthy by the All-Star break.
Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of The Year, was 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 2.18 FIP before he had season-ending Tommy John surgery. He isn't expected to formally throw off of a mound until next year, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
The top pitching prospect was expected to anchor the Marlins' youthful rotation in 2014, and did so before going down. Manager Mike Redmond consistently spoke about the energy Fernandez can bring to the team even when he isn't starting a game.
Miami has taken a rightfully conservative approach with its top players in recent years. Before Fernandez went down, the Marlins wanted to make sure Giancarlo Stanton was completely healthy after an injury-ridden 2013 before he returned to the lineup in 2014. The organization has also been careful with Henderson Alvarez and Marcell Ozuna, proving the team acknowledges the importance of its young players.
A healthy Fernandez could also be key in the context of a possible Stanton extension. Stanton wanted to see that the Marlins are serious about winning, and Fernandez gives Miami a good chance to win consistently when he is on the mound.
Some analysts wondered if Fernandez can turn in a second consecutive dominant season, and it appeared he was on the way to doing so. Fernandez told several local media outlets he "felt great" at the end of the season, which is something the Marlins can be content with heading into the offseason.
Miami has a significant amount of pitching depth, and part of the reason Jarred Cosart was acquired was to keep the rotation strong until Fernandez returned. Andrew Heaney could also see started time next year, and when Fernandez returns, the Marlins may have one of baseball's best young rotations.
Fernandez is still a ways away from getting back into his traditional form. But taking one step at a time, Fernandez is confident he will bounce back stronger and help the Marlins make a run at a playoff spot in 2015. And that all starts with throwing in small increments.