Jose Fernandez will make at least a pair of minor league starts but the Marlins' intention beyond that is unknown. Miami's ace will not return to the major leagues immediately after a few rehab outings, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, and he could make up to five rehab starts before joining the Marlins rotation.
Fernandez, 22, is coming off of Tommy John surgery and the Marlins have made it clear he will not be rushed back despite injuries to Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, and Mat Latos. He made his first rehab outing on Monday in extended spring training, striking out seven over three frames, and will join Class-A on Saturday.
Since he was first placed on the disabled list, the Marlins set a late June or early July return date, and Fernandez appears to be on track to return to Miami in early July. As MLB.com's Joe Frisaro notes, Fernandez could be activated for the Marlins' July 1 home contest against the Giants or July 7 in Boston. The Marlins face the Cubs in Chicago in between however Miami may pick the later date to ensure Fernandez is completely healthy.
Regardless of how many of the 30 rehab days the Marlins are determined to use, Fernandez will have to prove to the organization he is prepared before being activated. Frisaro adds the Marlins are taking a Spring Training-type approach with Fernandez, meaning the number of pitches he tosses will increase with each outing. He tossed 42 pitches on Monday and may only throw a pair of innings on Saturday.
Most starters post between 19 and 23 innings in spring training. If Fernandez makes the five rehab starts he has spoken of and pitches one more inning than the previous start, he should end up with close to 18 total innings, which would likely be enough for the Marlins to slot him into the rotation assuming he has success.
Miami's rotation is not entirely healthy but that will not influence when the Marlins give Fernandez the opportunity to make another major league start. Although Alvarez, Cosart, and Latos have all seen time on the disabled list, Tom Koehler and Brad Hand have had success in their absence. Fernandez will be called upon soon but he will rightfully not be rushed.