Wei-Yin Chen will start on Opening Day, with Jose Fernandez then slated to pitch the following day. This may have come to a surprise to some people as Fernández has been unquestioned staff ace the past couple of years, took the mound on opening day in 2014 and would've done so in 2015 if not for his continuing recovery from Tommy John surgery. Maybe you question the wisdom of potentially angering the young superstar by putting someone ahead of him in the rotation.
Well you shouldn't, because it was absolutely the right decision.
I don't think anyone would argue that Chen has better stuff. That's not the point of this. By placing Fernández in the second spot in the rotation, it ensures that he gets the rest advocated by both the team and his agent Scott Boras. Both wish to keep him at around a 180 innings pitched limit this season, and by pitching second, a couple of his June starts line up after off days in additon to the lengthy cushion he'll receive during the All-Star break in July. It might not seem like much on the surface, but coupled with the near certainty of in-season adjustments to rotation assignments, it's a pro-active effort to keep the young fireballer's innings down.
This also has nothing to do with Fernández's rough start against the Mets a couple days back, where he pitched three and two third's innings and gave up six runs. Spring training stats do not matter.
Spring training stats DO NOT MATTER.
Fernández himself is saying all the right things about the situation. When talking with MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, José said they had come to a "nice agreement."
"Chen got it." Fernández said "We'll win that game. It's not big deal. He's fantastic."
Knowing how much of a fiery competitor José is, you know this has to be killing him inside, but give him credit for being cool with it in public. Even if he's steaming on the inside, does it matter? Everyone knows a Scott Boras client will test the market, and everyone knows that the Marlins will trade Fernández before he gets to that point with the team, so what is the point of coddling his ego at this juncture?
You don't lose out from a competitive standpoint, either, because the consistent Chen will keep you in ball games against other teams number ones, and Fernández is superior to most team's number twos. Furthermore, as we move on into the season and different rotation alignments and days off crop up, the match-ups will jumble anyway so it wont matter who the so-called number one or number two is.
For the Marlins purposes though, it's important because of the aforementioned rest that José will receive in the two spot. It's really no different then how other teams have handled their superstars coming off of serious surgery. Look no further then the Marlins' two main challengers for the NL East title in the Nationals and Mets, and how they dealt with Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey, respectively.
This is all about getting the most out of the investment, and the Marlins deserve credit for recognizing how to maximize the return for all parties involved.