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Chapter 142: Alex Fernandez

Miami Beach native Alex Fernandez made a big impact in a relatively short time.

Marlins V Giants Fernandez

The All-Time Marlins Countdown is up to 142 chapters.

Our offseason-long countdown has covered 606 players now, and we only have 24 to go. Players are sorted by bWAR divided by plate appearances and/or batters faced. Today’s featured player, Alex Fernandez, totaled 7.3 pitching bWAR and another 0.8 batting bWAR during his time with the team.

24. Alex Fernandez

Alex Fernandez is a six-foot-two right-handed pitching and hitting native of Miami Beach, Florida. Born on August 13, 1969, Fernandez was a first round choice of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988, 24th overall off the board out of Monsignor Edward Pace HS. He declined, and was taken fourth overall two years later by the Chicago White Sox out of Miami-Dade College.

Fernandez went 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA in eight starts over three levels of minor league ball soon after getting drafted. Not wishing to waste any time, he made his major league debut just two months after the draft, and went 5-5 with a 3.80 ERA over 13 starts. He struck out 61 in 87 23 innings at the major league level.

Fernandez pitched for the White Sox for seven seasons, starting in 197 of his 199 appearances and racking up a 79-63 record with a 3.78 ERA and 951 K’s in 1346 13 innings. Granted free agency following the 1996 season, he was a free agent for two days. The Marlins signed him to a five-year, $35 million deal on December 9.

At the start of the 1997 campaign, Fernandez was the number three starter. It didn’t take him long to make a positive impact with a near perfect victory in his second start on April 10. He pitched a one hitter, walking zero and striking out eight.

Fernandez actually had a no-hitter going until there was one out in the ninth, but Dave Hansen ruined it with an infield single. A pair of errors later and two runners on, Fernandez struck out future Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg to end the threat for a 1-0 win against the Chicago Cubs.

Fernandez went on to strike out 10 batters on four occasions through the season, leading the eventual World Champions in victories with a 17-12 record. In 32 starts, he posted a 3.59 ERA and a team-second 1.187 WHIP (team leader Kevin Brown had a mark of 1.180, but more on him later). Fernandez struck out 183 and walked 69 in an NL-10th 220 23 innings.

Fernandez started a pair of games in the postseason, going 1-1. In Game Two of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, he allowed six runs in 2 23 innings before getting lifted. Our worst fears were confirmed two days later.

An MRI exam revealed that the right-hander had suffered a career-threatening tear in the rotator cuff of his pitching shoulder. Fernandez will undergo surgery soon, sitting out the rest of postseason play and possibly the next two seasons as he faces extensive rehabilitation. - LA Times

Fernandez missed the entire 1998 campaign in rehabilitation, and returned in 1999 for 24 starts. He went 7-8 with a 3.38 ERA and 91 whiffs in 141 innings. As previously noted, Fernandez was no slouch at the plate either. He went 10-for-43 with three long-balls and seven RBI.

Fernandez started eight games for Florida in 2000, going 4-4 with a 4.13 ERA by mid-May. He suffered a setback to his pitching arm, and reluctantly retired at the end of 2001.

It’s a day that has to come sooner or later. It came sooner for me. - Fernandez, on ESPN.COM.

Despite only pitching one full season and parts of two others with the team, Fernandez holds a special place in the hearts of Marlins fans. He ranks 10th all-time on the Marlins leaderboard with a 117 ERA+, of players with 200 or more innings pitched.